Prosecutor investigating Covid denier named in activist's terrorism accusations
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) launched an investigation into the collective charges filed against Willem Engel, leader of the Viruswaarheid action group. Some 22,581 people signed the declaration, the OM confirmed after a report from initiator Norbert Dikkeboom. Engel said that the accusations against him are "pure mud-throwing" and "another smear campaign."
Dikkeboom started this citizens' initiative last year because he believes Engel is guilty of incitement, spreading medical misinformation, fraud, making statements with terrorist intent, and threats. He described the Viruswaarheid founder as "an extremely disturbing factor in the debate about the coronavirus and the associated measures." According to him, Engel sows fear and division among the population with his statements. Dikkeboom handed over the collective declaration to the OM in Rotterdam in December.
"After the declaration, there appeared to be sufficient reason for an exploratory investigation. The police will conduct this. The public prosecutor will then decide whether there is a provable criminal offense and whether to prosecute," said an OM spokesperson.
According to Engel, the declaration is false and does not contain any criminal offenses. "I try to keep the debate sharp but never cross the line. I've never threatened anyone." The Viruswaarheid foreman previously accused Dikkeboom of stalking.
Dikkeboom added the last charge - threat - to the declaration in January after Chief Public Prosecutor Michel Zwinkels appeared on EenVandaag. In an item about politicians who are threatened, Zwinkels said that he found statements about tribunals "really dangerous."
"Those are disguised death threats, and that's how we see it," Zwinkels said in the broadcast early in January. According to the prosecutor, statements such as "your time will come" or "you'll have to answer to a tribunal" quickly come close to a punishable death threat. "We also prosecute people for that, and people are also sentenced for that by the judge."
Dikkeboom said he then collected about 50 examples of statements by Engel about tribunals. "He talks about it all the time, at demonstrations with large groups of people and online." According to Dikkeboom, the OM added the document to the declaration.
A spokesperson for the OM could not yet say how long the exploratory investigation would take.
Reporting by ANP