Prosecutors want 15-months in prison for tractor attack against news photographer
Prosecutors said the man who attacked a press photographer in Lunteren last April should be ordered to serve 15 months in prison, five of which may be conditionally suspended. The prosecution gave its closing arguments in a Zutphen courtroom on Monday. The victim wanted to take pictures of a car fire, but while he and his girlfriend sat in a car the vehicle was pushed into a ditch by a tractor.
The Public Prosecution Service (OM) did not call the dangerous assault an attack on press freedom. "It looked like that for a while, but the suspect did not know that these were members of the press who wanted to report on the fire. He thought they were ordinary bystanders who wanted to film other people's misery."
The suspect, Appie E., aged 34, was working that Monday evening at his boss's farm in Lunteren when two press photographers showed up to the scene of a reported car fire. The car of E.’s boss had been on fire, but it was extinguished. The arrival of the photographer immediately angered the three people present, who remained on the public road. They intimidated the journalists, and threatened to "smash them to pieces" if they didn't leave.
E. then handed out sticks to those present, which they used to strike the photographer's car. He then walked back to the farm and got into a tractor, which he used to lift the victim's car and dump it upside down in a ditch. The photographer and his girlfriend were still in the car at the time and became trapped. According to the court, images from the photographer's dashcam showed that the occupants felt “blind panic.” Firefighters were called in to rescue the couple from the car.
E. expressed regret in the courtroom on Monday afternoon. "I now realize that this could have turned out very differently," he said. A reconstruction showed that the car was struck and knocked over so hard that it could have been fatal for the victims.
The suspect has since compensated both victims. His lawyer emphasized once again that there was indeed no question of an assault on the free press. "The man had not identified himself as a journalist and also did not have a press card. My client simply did not want videos of other people's suffering to be placed on YouTube again."
The court will issue a verdict in the case against Appie E. on February 7. The 55-year-old owner of the Lunteren farm, and a 21-year-old gardener from Barneveld will be prosecuted separately for public violence and threats.
Reporting by ANP