Covid denier accused of sedition re-arrested after social media appearance
Update, 12:30 p.m. on 3 April 2022: This story was updated after Willem Engel was taken into custody.
Viruswaarheid leader Willem Engel was taken back into custody on Sunday. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) said that the 45-year-old Rotterdammer was arrested for violating the terms of his release from pre-trial detention following his earlier arrest on charges of sedition. A spokesperson for the OM was unable to confirm was related to Engel's appearance in a video from the YouTube channel Café Weltschmerz released on Friday evening.
After two weeks in custody, his pre-trial detention was suspended on Wednesday. One of the conditions set by the court was that "he refrain from making statements on social media.” The court said that the condition was suggested by Engel himself.
Café Weltschmerz broadcast a conversation with Engel and his legal representative, Jeroen Pols, on Friday. The video was still available for audience members on Sunday morning. In this, Engel talks about his arrest and the ongoing criminal cases against him.
It was already clear over the weekend that Engel would be taken into custody again should prosecutors determine that he violated the terms of his release. The Public Prosecution Service confirmed on Saturday that the office had seen the video, after the story was first reported by De Telegraaf. At the time, a spokesperson for the OM was not willing to make further comment about the matter.
On Sunday, Engel was supposed to give a speech during a coronavirus protest in Nijmegen. Pols said Engel was taken into custody on the highway on his way to the event.
Engel is suspected of having posted "incendiary coronavirus-related messages" on social media for a long period spanning from June 2020 through December 2021. "These messages have led to other people committing criminal offenses or being incited to do so," the Public Prosecution Service said earlier. It is not yet clear when he will appear in court in this case.
The OM launched their investigation after 23,000 people answered a campaign by activist Norbert Dikkeboom to press charges against Engel. Dikkeboom accused Engel of inciting violence, spreading medical misinformation, fraud, making statements with terrorist intent, and threats.
Apart from this, he has to go to court on June 13 for ignoring a police order during a demonstration in The Hague on October 10, 2020, and for incitement regarding comments published on Facebook. According to the Public Prosecution Service, he said during a live stream that people should detain police officers using a citizen's arrest procedure.
Café Weltschmerz claims to be an alternative to mainstream media that publishes stories which would otherwise be untold. The organization's website says it is driven by citizen journalism and "autonomous" interviewers who are "cross-thinking experts."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times.