Warning letters sent to people who claim they did not attend Schiphol climate protest
Several people have been called in for discussions this week by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMAR) after claiming they were mistakenly sent warning letters about a climate protest at Schiphol airport last November. Although the Public Prosecution Service distributed these letters based on the information they received from the KMAR, seven of the recipients have already reported they did not attend the protest.
During the protest on November 5 last year, hundreds of climate activists from Greenpeace and Extinction Rebellion entered a restricted part of Schiphol airport where business and private flights with small aircraft are handled. Some activists chained themselves to planes, while others cycled on the platform. The Marechaussee arrested more than 200 people.
Five of them are now being prosecuted for chaining themselves to landing gear and allegedly causing "significant damage." In July, the Public Prosecution Service sent warning letters to 176 others who were supposedly wandering or cycling on the premises.
“It has been determined that you unlawfully entered Schiphol airport grounds and remained there,” the letter read. Several recipients expressed surprise, stating they did not participate in the protest. One of them is public administration expert Kirsten Verdel. She responded to the invitation because she wanted to understand "how they think they identified me." If facial recognition software was used, Verdel believes it "should be thrown away immediately."
The Public Prosecution Service does not want to go into details about the cases at this time. "The KMAR is reaching out to these individuals, and based on the findings, the Public Prosecution Service will decide on the next steps regarding the complaints," a spokesperson said. She added that it would be helpful if those affected could provide information proving they were elsewhere at the time, though it is "not mandatory."
Verdel has since received a message from a related prosecutor attorney stating: "This doesn't seem to be going as I had planned. I will certainly look into it." The Public Prosecution Service confirmed that such an email was sent.
The spokesperson confirmed that they had noticed the ongoing controversy. Last month, the Public Prosecution Service mentioned in a press release: "If people were indeed not present, it is regrettable, and apologies will be given. Naturally, all registered data will be deleted." It remains unclear when the affected people will receive a definitive answer. "We aim to resolve this as soon as possible," the spokesperson concluded.
Reporting by ANP and NL Times