Farmers who protested at minister's home convicted, sentenced to community service
The police judge in Zutphen handed out community service sentences of up to 100 hours, and suspended prison sentences of up to one month, to those who participated in the farmers protest at the end of June in front of Christianne van der Wal's home. Van der Wal is the minister for nitrogen and nature. "It is unacceptable that you visit a politician at home as a large group. This is pure intimidation," said the judge.
On the evening of 28 June, about 150 farmers and supporters drove from Bathmen, Overijssel to the minister's home in Hierden, Gelderland. They arrived with dozens of tractors, the criminal hearing showed on Friday. A police car was also destroyed. The Public Prosecution Service said it was a deliberate attempt to intimidate the minister.
Officers had to scramble for their lives as tractors drove through the blockade, the prosecutor said. They used a forage harvester to spread hay over the officers, an air raid siren was sounded, and manure was dumped right in front of the minister's house. Earlier that month, farmers also visited the minister's home. That is why the police had blocked the access road to her house.
Eleven participants in the protest were identified and were on trial Friday at the police court, where a single judge hears criminal cases against adults where a maximum of a year in prison can be imposed with a guilty verdict. The protest was a spontaneous reaction to the how motions motions regarding the country's nitrogen policy were handled earlier that afternoon in The Hague.
"We didn't intend to intimidate. We just wanted to make ourselves heard," one of them told the judge. Almost all of the suspects said afterwards that they would have made a different choice if they could go back in time. According to the public prosecutor, they thought they and their tractors were unstoppable compared to a small group of police officers.
Their behavior "disinhibited everything that happened that night," the judge said. There was no such thing as a demonstration that night, which the activists claimed, the judge said. Nine men were given 100 hours of community service and a one-month suspended prison sentence. Two were given 60 hours of community service for covering up a camera. One suspect was a minor and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service.
The Public Prosecution Service had demanded community service of up to 120 hours and suspended prison sentences of up to two months.
Most activists were present at the verdict. "This is really incomprehensible," groaned one of them as they walked out of the courtroom.
Reporting by ANP