Like so many other politicians, D66 leader Sigrid Kaag receives “a lot of hateful texts every day,” she said on the doorstep of the court in The Hague on Tuesday afternoon. In most cases, she files a report and leaves the case to the courts. At the end of September, a threat came in that was so serious, concrete and acute that Kaag decided not only to report the crime, but also to use her right to speak as a victim. “I thought it was important to draw a line.”

In her victim statement to the Hague police judge and in the presence of 43-year-old suspect Erik van Z., Kaag had explained this further.

“Until today I have let it come and go because the pattern of intimidation and threats against public persons seems to be tacitly accepted. But today I want to tell you about what it does to me. Not because I think it takes away my personal concern, but because I feel a responsibility to contribute to breaking the pattern.”

Carefree walking the dog

Kaag read her five-minute statement insistently. She said that as an active politician – back in the Netherlands for four years – she increasingly receives threats. And she described the effect they have on her and her family. “It is no longer possible to walk the dogs without any worries.” Kaag said that as a UN envoy in the Middle East she had to deal with heavy security on a daily basis. “Yet, now that I am active as a politician in the Netherlands, I am sometimes more anxious than I have ever been.”

The suspect, who was sitting less than three meters in front of her, did not look back during Kaag’s story. On Thursday September 30, Van Z. had sent the message on the Facebook group of D66 Noord-Brabant under his own name that he “will attack Sigrid Kaag before 2400 hours this evening and injure her in such a way that she is either dead or never again.” can perform the function”.

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Two weeks earlier, the same suspect had also posted a death threat against outgoing minister Hugo de Jonge (CDA) on Facebook. He was arrested shortly afterwards. Van Z. said that he acted “impulsively” because he was angry about, among other things, the corona policy of the cabinet – the judge said that Van Z. does not want to be vaccinated. Van Z. said he was deeply ashamed and sorry. “It’s terrible,” he responded to Kaag’s story. He hadn’t meant to hurt her.

It is exceptional for a threatened politician to speak in a criminal case against someone who has threatened him or her. In 2016, the then D66 leader Alexander Pechtold made a statement to the court in Leeuwarden about a death threat against him.

The number of threats against politicians, especially via social media, has been increasing for years: 393 registered cases in 2019, compared to 239 in 2016. The figures for 2020 and this year are not yet known to the Police Threatened Politicians Team of the Hague Police. It was recently announced that the security of outgoing Prime Minister Rutte had to be tightened. Tens of millions of euros have been reserved in the Justice Budget for 2022.

“It is very important that Kaag has come to court,” says Hans Boutellier, professor by special appointment of politicization at the Free University. He suspects that only the imposition of a sentence has a major deterrent effect on potential threats. “If a prominent victim now comes forward emphatically and gives a clear signal that it is not acceptable, that is very good.”

The judge imposed a prison sentence of five months (two of which were suspended). She went over the demand of the Public Prosecution Service, the officer had demanded four months in prison.

Correction (October 13, 2021: An earlier version of this article stated that it has never happened before that a politician has spoken out about threats in court. That is not correct. Former D66 leader Alexander Pechtold already did that in 2016. That is modified above.

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