Court finds 20 guilty for online at­tacks

Kingston Whig-Standard - - WORLD NEWS - MIKE CORDER

THE HAGUE, Nether­lands — A Dutch court con­victed 20 peo­ple Thurs­day of in­sult­ing or threat­en­ing a politi­cian and TV per­son­al­ity in a racially charged case that shocked the na­tion.

The ver­dicts came in the trial in Am­s­ter­dam of 21 peo­ple ac­cused of tar­get­ing Syl­vana Si­mons, who is a for­mer dancer and TV pre­sen­ter of Suri­namese de­scent, with a tor­rent of online racist abuse last year. One per­son was ac­quit­ted.

The court said in a state­ment that the heav­i­est sen­tence, 80 hours of com­mu­nity ser­vice, went to a man who su­per­im­posed the head of Si­mons on video im­ages of a Ku Klux Klan lynch­ing. Oth­ers were given shorter work or­ders or fines.

“Many peo­ple saw the video and were con­fronted with dis­crim­i­na­tory im­ages of peo­ple with dark skin,” the court said.

Si­mons stood as a can­di­date in the Nether­lands’ March 15 elec­tions but didn’t win enough sup­port for a par­lia­men­tary seat. Much of the online abuse she faced came af­ter she ear­lier an­nounced she was join­ing a party called Denk, (Think).

She left the party a few months later and formed her own po­lit­i­cal group, called Ar­tikel 1, a ref­er­ence to the first ar­ti­cle of the Dutch con­sti­tu­tion, which guar­an­tees equal­ity and out­laws all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion. The group wel­comed the ver­dicts, tweet­ing that they sent a “clear sig­nal” about the lim­its of free­dom of speech.

The court also un­der­scored that as­pect of the rul­ing.

“Ex­press­ing opin­ions is ac­cept­able, there is a large amount of free­dom, es­pe­cially when it is part of a de­bate in so­ci­ety,” the court said in a state­ment. “But when the opin­ion is an in­sult, threat, in­cite­ment or dis­crim­i­na­tion, then it be­comes crim­i­nal be­hav­iour.”

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