Covid denier Willem Engel released from pre-trial custody
The Covid-19 conspiracy theorist, Willem Engel, was released from pre-trial detention on Wednesday. The founder of Covid-denying group Viruswaarheid has been in custody for two weeks on charges of sedition. The court in Rotterdam ruled that he can await his trial in freedom if he adheres to several conditions. Among them is that he may not post messages on social media.
He will be sent back to jail should he violate those conditions. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) suspects him of posting seven inciting coronavirus-related 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. That is a criminal offense in the Netherlands. Police arrested Engel earlier this month.
The OM launched the investigation against Engel in January 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.
The next hearing date was not immediately known. Had his remand been extended, his next court hearing would likely have taken place by the end of June.
Engel is currently a defendant in another criminal case. He is accused of ignoring a police order during a protest on October 10, 2020 in The Hague, and inciting people during a Facebook livestream to place police officers under citizen's arrest. That case will be handled by a three-judge panel on June 13, though his attorney in that case, Michael Ruperti, said it was not complex enough to require three judges to deliberate the case.