The police judge in The Hague sentenced a man who threatened D66 leader Sigrid Kaag and demissionary minister Hugo de Jonge via Facebook to a five-month prison sentence of which two months of probation. The judge charges the man heavily that he contributed to a climate of fear and insecurity in Dutch society.
D66 leader Kaag attended the hearing and exercised her right to speak. It rarely happens in threat cases for victims to be heard. Kaag had a clear reason. “I feel the responsibility to contribute to breaking the pattern in which harassment and threat to public persons are tacitly accepted.”
Kaag described fears she sometimes feels:
Under the profile name X, the man in the public Facebook group of D66 in North Brabant wrote: “With this I tell you that I am going to attack Sigrid Kaag by 24.00 am tonight and in such a way that she is dead, or never able to perform her function again”.
Two weeks earlier, the man also threatened Hugo de Jonge. On the demissionary minister‘s Facebook page, he posted the text: “Starting tomorrow, you can feel free to look around you every second. I’ll pay the first, second and the last bullet for you too! I will do everything I can to stop this German behavior. The whole of the Netherlands nods yes. From now on, I stopped nodding and taking action!”
A substantial part of the online hate received by women politicians in particular is addressed to Kaag, Utrecht University and investigative journalism journal De Groene Amsterdammer concluded during the election campaign.
Walking the dog uncared
In her speech, Kaag addressed the impact of the threats on her and her family. “It made me quiet, stunned, disappointed, and I saw it in front of me, and if someone threatens you with death, you wonder, how safe am I?” She described how the “unworrisome walking of the dog” was no longer there and her children didn‘t want to come home. “The house had become an unsafe place because of their mother’s job.”
Kaag also referred to the murder of her predecessor Els Borst. “Words can lead to acts, politicians have been murdered in the Netherlands. She was murdered for her political actions and views.”
With this speech, Kaag wants to draw a line. “This way we make society unsafe for each other. Here lies a social mission to stop letting hate and threats pass through. Because it‘s not part of it “well once.”
Threat in a fit of anger
During the hearing, the suspect heard Kaag’s argument. He then declared to the judge that it was horrible that Kaag felt so miserable as a result of the threats. “I‘m deeply ashamed of it and I never should have done it.”
He put the messages online with his phone in a fit of anger. “But I should have known better, after all, I’m not ten years.” He also said that the threats were not meant to be personal and that he had no intention of actually implementing them. The man said he was frustrated by the consequences of corona crisis, formation and government policy.
“Don‘t shoulder up”
The D66 leader later said in the radio show De Wild in the Afternoon that she was happy to have spoken at the hearing. “But I don’t know if it impressed. He was in court before me so I couldn‘t see his face.” She stressed the importance of continuing to mention that online hate and threats, particularly against women, do not hear and that society should not shrug on that.
Lawsuits about threatening politicians are regular, but victims hardly ever use their right to speak. This week Mayor Sharon Dijksma of Utrecht filed a report because of an image showing her hanging from a gallows. Demissionary Minister De Jonge also reported threat via Twitter this week.
See Sigrid Kaag’s entire 5-minute statement here: