‘A climate is emerging in which politicians must be permanently anxious’

Since September, at least eleven people have been arrested in connection with, or convicted of threats from demissionary Prime Minister Rutte. And today it became clear that another man from Amsterdam was arrested last summer because he might want to commit a murder attempt on Rutte.

All those events fit within the trend that the number of threats recorded against politicians has risen in recent years. In 2016, the Endangered Politicians (TBP) Team identified 65 criminal threats. In 2017 there were 90, 362 the year after and in 2019 it was 206.

โ€œIncrease in Corona Timeโ€

A complete figure for 2020 is not yet available, as reports must first be determined whether they are actually criminal threats. โ€œYou can see that it has increased in corona time,โ€ says a spokesman for the Public Prosecutor The Hague based on the preliminary figures for 2020. โ€œNo exponential increase, but an increase.โ€

That increase cannot be seen apart from the corona pandemic, says safety expert Jelle van Buuren. Because with all the lockdowns, curfew, corona pass and many other major measures, he believes it is a time of unprecedented social change. โ€œSome people are very fiercely talking about that and they whip up each other via social media.โ€

He refers to reports by, for example, the National Counterterrorism and Security Coordinator. It also points to the major social turmoil that has been sparked by the coronavirus.

By far most threats are made via social media. For example, Yavuz O. would have placed inflammatory texts in public Telegram groups, so it became clear today about the Amsterdammer who, according to the public prosecutor, has plotted a possible assassination attempt on Rutte.

Shooters and Weapons

โ€œI‘m not looking for protesters. I’m looking for revolutionaries. Shooters/hitters/armed /violence. Everything allowed,โ€ the suspect would have written in that app group. He would also have been looking for weapons and physically discussing his plans with others.

The big question in this type of business is always: how serious was O.? Was it especially tough words, which explains many a suspect in such cases in court afterwards, or would he have joined the act by word? Such a thing is hard to say based on media reports, experts emphasize. โ€œBut I can imagine the judge taking these expressions as a threat,โ€ says Professor of Criminal Justice Hans de Doelder.

The

more systematic the expressions are, the more serious the intelligence services take it, according to Van Buuren. โ€œIn this case, it seems a bit more than someone who has put something on social media in an angry mood. There may not have been any concrete plans yet, but they did talk about it with others. But it remains hard to tell how serious it was.โ€

‘I’m scared

Ultimately, the judge will judge about it. Just like this week the police judge did in a case against the man who threatened D66 leader Sigrid Kaag and demissionary Minister Hugo de Jonge via Facebook. โ€œI’m afraid to open the post,โ€ Kaag stated in court.

Kaag described the fears she says she had since the threat:

โ€œA climate is created in which politicians must be permanently anxious,โ€ Van Buuren refers to Kaag‘s words. โ€œApart from the individual impact, it also starts to disrupt the democratic process.โ€ That explains why judges seem to punish more severely in these cases in recent years.

โ€œIn The Hague sessions where the court sentences have previously been mainly served, are now subject to cell penalties,โ€ says the spokesman for the State in The Hague. He can only talk about the situation in that city. But Professor De Doelder has the idea that more severe penalties are being given in the rest of the country when threatening politicians than before. โ€œIt’s taken more seriously now.โ€