Covid denier remanded into custody on sedition charges
Willem Engel, a Covid-denier and founder of the action group Viruswaarheid, will stay in custody for another fourteen days. Engel is accused of committing sedition with social media posts about the coronavirus and the government's policy against it. The magistrate remanded him into custody during his arrangement on Friday, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) announced.
Engel was arrested in Rotterdam on Wednesday. The OM suspects him of posting seven inciting posts on social media between June 2020 and December 2021. "These messages have led to other people committing or inciting criminal offenses," the OM said.
"Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights in Dutch law. So you can say and think whatever you want. But there are limits to that freedom of expression," the OM said. "One of those limits is that expressions may never incite others to commit criminal offenses."
The OM said in January that Engel was under investigation after nearly 23,000 people answered a call to press charges against him. The campaign was launched by activist Norbert Dikkeboom last year. He accused Engel of inciting violence, spreading medical misinformation, fraud, making statements with terrorist intent, and threats.
Inciting people to commit a criminal offense or violent acts against public officials is illegal in the Netherlands and punishable by up to five years in prison. Distribution of such messages, including in a speech, is punishable by a maximum of three years behind bars. In either case, the Dutch criminal code also allows courts to increase prison sentences by a third if the crime is considered a terrorist act.