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Eight youths aged 14 to 16 are arrested in latest ‘paedophile hunt’ attack

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Eight minors have been arrested in connection with a possible vigilante attack on a man they suspect was a paedophile, local broadcaster Omroep Zeeland said on Tuesday.

The youths, aged 14 to 16, come from the rural areas of Noord and Zuid-Beveland and attacked the man in the town of Goes. He was hospitalised but has since been discharged, the broadcaster said.

Earlier this month police, ministers and the public prosecution department called on vigilante groups to stop hunting down people they consider to be paedophiles, following the death of a 73-year-old man.

The man, a retired teacher from Arnhem, died after being beaten up by a group of teenagers who had set him up online to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex. It is unclear if he knew the youth was a minor and four of the teenagers remain in custody.

Some 250 incidents involving vigilante groups and alleged paedophiles have been recorded since July and police have had to help some people who have been outed as paedophiles to go into hiding because of the threats.

(DutchNews)

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Baudet quits as Forum chairman, youth wing leader is off MPs’ list

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Thierry Baudet, who founded far-right party Forum voor Democratie in late 2016, has resigned as party chairman, less than 24 hours after he stood down as leader of the 2021 general election campaign.

Baudet quit as campaign leader following a major split in the party over the approach to tackling homophobic and anti-semitic sentiment within the youth wing. Baudet wanted to wait for the results of an internal inquiry and described the public criticism of his position as ‘trial by media’.

Deputy chairman Lennart van der Linden will take over as acting chairman while the board work on ‘a good and careful transition’, the party said in a written statement.

Baudet will remain an MP, one of two the party currently has, and has said he is available for the symbolic role as last on the list of the party’s prospective MPs for the 2021 election.

Joost Eerdmans, former Rotterdam city executive and an MP for the populist Lijst Pim Fortuyn, is being tipped as the party’s new public face. Eerdmans is currently in fourth place on the FvD’s list of potential MPs.

In addition, the party’s board has confirmed that Freek Jansen, head of the youth wing, will be removed from the list of potential MPs. Jansen is considered to be Baudet’s right-hand man and works for the MP as an advisor.

He helped write Baudet’s controversial ‘Minerva’s owl’ speech after last year’s provincial elections and is said to have organised Baudet’s meeting with American alt right figurehead Jared Taylor, among others.

In 2019, FvD emerged as the biggest party in the country after the provincial elections but since then its fortunes have collapsed, amid allegations of anti-semitism, racism and internal disputes.

According to the latest polls, the party will win no more than five or six seats in the March general election.

Hiddema

Theo Hiddema, a former lawyer who won the other Forum seat in parliament at the 2017 general election, said on Tuesday afternoon he is standing down as an MP with immediate effect.

Hiddema said in a letter to parliament that he was declaring himself ‘incapable of working politically due to person circumstances related to good taste, self-importance and job satisfaction.’

(DutchNews)

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Pregnant women still being discriminated against at work, report finds

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – More than two in five pregnant women and new mothers face some form of discrimination at work linked to motherhood, according to the Dutch human rights council College voor de Rechten van de Mens.

In its latest four-yearly report, the organisation concludes there has been no improvement since 2012. In total, 1,100 women who had given birth within the last four years took part in the research survey.

‘Pregnancy-related discrimination remains a major problem in the Dutch jobs market,’ the council said. ‘More needs to be done to tackle this stubborn problem.’ One in five women said they suspected they had been rejected for a job because they were either pregnant, had a child or wanted to have children, while one in five had specifically been told this was the case, the report said.

Almost half the women surveyed who had a temporary employment contract said their contracts were either not renewed or not converted into permanent jobs after pregnancy.

And a quarter of women also said they suspected that they had not been given promotion or a pay rise because they were pregnant. Even though the problem appears to be widespread, it is rarely reported, often because the women don’t realise, they are being discriminated against at the time, the report said.

Just 11% of the women surveyed had reported the discrimination to the relevant authorities.

(DutchNews)

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Thierry Baudet stands down as far right FvD party leader

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Thierry Baudet has resigned as leader of far-right party Forum voor Democratie and will not lead the party into the 2021 general election.

Baudet made the announcement in a video message on Monday evening, in which he blamed the media for the party’s current troubles. Several leading members of far-right party Forum for Democracy’s youth wing were suspended at the weekend in a long-running row over racism and anti-semitism on internal message boards.

One is thought to be a 23-year-old student of political communications who was quoted saying ‘Jews have international paedophile networks and usher large numbers of women into pornography’.

In another message he expressed the view that ‘National-Socialism had the best economic formula ever.’ Baudet had announced an internal inquiry to be led by FvD senator Paul Cliteur and Wybren van Haga, an independent MP who joined the party last month and is on its list of candidates for next year’s general election.

But the move was criticised as ‘too little, too late’ by senator and Amsterdam city councillor Annabel Nanninga, who called for a ‘total clear out’ of the JFvD organisation.

A number of other prominent party members, including the party’s other MP Theo Hiddema, supported Nanninga’s line.

Inquiry

In his video, Baudet said he did not understand the fact that others would not wait for the results of the inquiry. ‘We are now threatening to throw people under a bus before we know what has happened,’ he said.

Baudet said his action was taking ‘ultimate political responsibility’. ‘Hopefully, this will stop all this nonsense definitively,’ he said. The MP and party founder said he would be happy to take the ceremonial position of last place on the list of candidate MPs for the general election – which makes it likely he would be elected – and did not mention relinquishing his role on the party’s executive board.

Chris Alberts, who is an expert on the party, told television current affairs show Nieuwsuur on Monday evening that Baudet has not left the party and will still be a prominent member. ‘Baudet likes to keep things vague… but you could say that what he has done is purely for show,’ he said.

Right-hand man

Later on, Monday evening it was reported that Freek Jansen, Baudet’s right-hand man and number 7 on the party’s list of candidate MPs had given up his place as a potential MP. However, it is unclear whether he had actually quit or not.

Jansen set up the FvD youth wing and works for Baudet and Hiddema in parliament. He helped write Baudet’s controversial ‘Minerva’s owl’ speech after last year’s provincial elections and is said to have organised Baudet’s meeting with American alt right figurehead Jared Taylor, among others.

Senior party officials are meeting to discuss the situation on Monday evening. In 2019, FvD emerged as the biggest party in the country after the provincial elections but since then its fortunes have collapsed, amid allegations of anti-semitism, racism and internal disputes.

According to the latest polls, the party will win no more than five parties in the March general election.

(DutchNews)

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Baudet under fire as row in FvD over racist messages erupts on social media

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Several leading members of far-right party Forum for Democracy’s youth wing have been suspended in a long-running row over racism and anti-Semitism on internal message boards.

Party leader Thierry Baudet came under pressure from senior colleagues over the weekend to take a firmer stance on the issue after screenshots of anti-Semitic messages in Young FvD (JFvD) app groups were published in Amsterdam-based newspaper Het Parool.

FvD said an unspecified number of JFvD office bearers had been relieved of their duties. One is thought to be a 23-year-old student of political communications who was quoted saying ‘Jews have international paedophile networks and usher large numbers of women into pornography’.

In another message he expressed the view that ‘National-Socialism had the best economic formula ever.’ Baudet announced an internal inquiry to be led by FvD senator Paul Cliteur and Wybren van Haga, an independent MP who joined the party last month and is on its list of candidates for next year’s general election.

But the move was criticised as ‘too little, too late’ by senator and Amsterdam city councillor Annabel Nanninga, who called for a ‘total clearout’ of the JFvD organisation.

Swedish model

FvD MEP Rob Roos said the JFvD group should be disbanded and reconvened ‘as the Sweden Democrats did,’ referring to the Swedish right-wing nationalist party, which cut off and reformed its youth wing in 2015 over allegations of links to the fascist Nordic Youth movement.

Nee, too little, too late. Onacceptabel dat mensen met dit soort denkbeelden in onze partij zitten en dat daar niet meteen keihard tegen wordt opgetreden. Ik sta hier volstrekt niet achter, en verwacht een volledige sanering van de JFVD.

 https://t.co/mtARBtEfwf — Annabel Nanninga (@ANanninga) November 22, 2020 Ik ben wars van alle vormen van racisme en antisemitisme. Persoonlijk had ik liever gezien dat we in één keer echt schoon schip hadden gemaakt en de JFVD hadden opgedoekt.

Jongeren afdeling opnieuw opzetten. Zoals de Zweden Democraten dat ooit hebben gedaan. Kan nog. https://t.co/eTzqr7dfLA — Rob Roos (@Rob_Roos) November 22, 2020

Diminishing polls

The FvD’s troubles come at a time when its standing in the polls has taken a sharp dive as voters have been turned off by Baudet’s support for anti-lockdown activists and coronavirus conspiracy groups such as Viruswaarheid.

The latest Peilingwijzer poll of polls projects FvD would win around six seats if an election were to be held now, compared to 15 in February and 24 at the height of its popularity 18 months ago, when it took the largest vote share in the provincial elections.

Central to the current row is the position of Freek Jansen, chair of the JFvD wing, who is also Baudet’s speechwriter and one of his closest aides.

NRC quoted members at the weekend saying that Baudet had threatened to quit as leader if Jansen was forced out. Jansen, who is ranked seventh on Forum’s list of election candidates, raised eyebrows with his language in a speech to the JFvD congress in June last year.

He spoke of fighting back against ‘clown world’ – a derogatory term widely used in extreme-right forums such as 4Chan – and described anti-fascists as ‘the stormtroopers of the established order.’

Whistleblowers sanctioned

Jansen initially declined to comment on Het Parool’s revelations, but later issued a statement in which he said the group was ‘shocked’ by the content of the messages and promised to co-operate with the internal inquiry.

‘I want to emphasise that racist and anti-Semitic ideas have no place in our group,’ he wrote in a message posted on JFvD’s Facebook page. ‘We support FvD’s election manifesto, not the things we are now being associated with.’

The dispute first came to light in May, when the party expelled three members and suspended three others for ‘unacceptable statements’ made in online forums.

Other FvD members told the party leadership they were concerned about the prevalence of ‘authoritarian, fascist and/or Nazi notions, including anti-Semitism, homophobia and racist imperialism’ within the youth movement.

However, last week it emerged that five of the whistleblowers were themselves ejected from the party in September. The leadership of JFvD said they had been sanctioned ‘not because they highlighted transgressions, but because they deliberately caused harm to the JFvD.’

(DutchNews)

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Cigarettes will disappear from supermarket shelves in 2024

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Cigarettes and rolling tobacco will no longer be sold in supermarkets from 2024 and ministers are likely to confirm the decision at Friday’s cabinet meeting, ministerial sources have told broadcasters NOS and RTL Nieuws.

The measure is the latest by the government to try to reduce smoking and the availability of cigarettes. Since last month, cigarettes have been sold in identical brown packaging and are hidden from public view in all but specialist outlets.

Tobacco prices have also gone up by an average of almost 20% this year, as the government moves towards its goal of a €10 packet of cigarettes. A further rise, of 12 cents, will take place on January 1, 2021.

Some 22% of the Dutch population still smoke and 35,000 people in the Netherlands a year die from the effects of smoking, being overweight or problem drinking.

The Nationaal Preventieakkoord, a government prevention programme, aims to bring back the number of smokers and problem drinkers to 5% and the number of overweight people to 38% by 2040.

(DutchNews)

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12 years for Nicky Verstappen’s killer but he is not guilty of manslaughter

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The man accused of abducting and killing 11-year-old Nicky Verstappen in 1998 has been found guilty of sexually assaulting the boy and of causing his death, whether deliberately or by accident.

The public prosecution department had said during the trial that Jos Brech should be found guilty of manslaughter but this, the court ruled, was not proven. Nevertheless, the court sentenced him to 12 years for the assault and his role in the boy’s death, plus a further six months for the possession of child pornography.

The public prosecution department had called for a 15-year sentence to be followed by compulsory psychiatric detention. Brech has always denied killing the boy and said the DNA evidence on his body had been transferred when he checked the boy’s body to see if he was alive.

The court, however, said the transfer was the result of lengthy and intensive contact ‘which would indicate a sexual motive’. Nicky disappeared from a summer camp in Brunssummerheide, Limburg on August 10, 1998 and his body was found the next day over a kilometre away.

The case was unsolved for 20 years until a mass DNA profiling exercise in 2018 linked Brech to the crime via family members. Prosecutors say 27 traces of DNA on Nicky’s body and clothing match the suspect’s profile.

The development led to a Europe-wide search for Brech, who had been reported missing by his family in April 2018. He was tracked down to a remote area outside Barcelona where he was living in the wild and has been held in custody ever since.

Brech’s lawyer has already said he will appeal.

(DutchNews)

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Local elections pass coronavirus test, turnout hardly affected

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A number of local elections in Groningen and Noord-Brabant on Wednesday have tested the way forward for coronavirus-proof voting ahead of next March’s national vote, officials said on Thursday.

The elections were called because of boundary changes and in all cases, turnout was close to levels recorded in the last local elections in 2018, showing people were still happy to vote.

In Groningen, three local authorities – Appingedam, Loppersum and Delfzijl – have been merged into a single region with the name Eemsdelta. Turnout was 44% and local parties won 11 seats on the new council, followed by Labour on five.

Local parties also topped the polls in various Brabant local authority areas, including Vucht and Boxtel, where boundary changes have led to a rejig of council coverage. In total, 115,000 people were able to vote on Wednesday, with turnout averaging around 50%.

The Netherlands goes to the polls to elect a new government next March and a number of measures are being taken to ensure that coronavirus does not have an impact.

These include keeping some polling stations open for three days to spread voting and allowing some people to vote by mail.

(DutchNews)

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Task force to clear refugee backlog fails, Amnesty criticises Dutch on IDs

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A special task force set up by the immigration service IND will not manage to process the backlog of 15,000 applications for asylum by the end of the year as planned, junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol has told MPs.

Some 7,000 cases will now be pushed into 2021, Broekers-Knol said in her briefing, blaming a number of setbacks, including coronavirus, start-up delays and time-consuming procedures which ‘can’t be made any quicker’.

The task force was set up after it emerged that the government was paying millions of euros in compensation to asylum seekers whose cases were not processed within the required period. Broekers-Knol has now scrapped those payments.

The task force focuses on people who arrived in the Netherlands before April 1 while new arrivals fall under the regular procedures, and this is likely to mean their cases will be examined earlier.

In recent weeks there have been several demonstrations at refugee centres by people who arrived in the Netherlands up to several years ago and whose cases have still not been dealt with.

Refugee aid group Vluchtelingenwerk said the situation is the result of ‘the latest failed attempt’ to tackle the problems at the IND and blamed the minister for failing to take the lead.

Amnesty

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on the Netherlands to give the benefit of the doubt to asylum seekers who cannot conclusively prove their names or nationalities, in line with United Nations protocol.

If the IND is not convinced about country or origin and identity it presses ahead with deportation, without checking if the person concerned risks torture or inhumane treatment, Amnesty said in a new report.

The report is based on an analysis of 50 IND decisions and 30 case files in which the identity of the refugee could not be established to officials’ satisfaction.

(DutchNews)

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September corona rules ‘did nothing’ says Van Dissel as cases rise again

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The government’s limited coronavirus restrictions in September, such as closing bars at 10pm, did nothing to check the rise in infections, disease control specialist Jaap van Dissel has told a parliamentary briefing.

The measures, announced by health minister Hugo de Jonge on September 28, also included limiting the number of visitors at home to three and a maximum of 40 people at outdoor gatherings.

In the following two weeks the number of cases reported per day more than doubled from 3,000 to nearly 7,000. The rapid rise was only curtailed by the partial lockdown introduced on October 13, Van Dissel, the public health agency RIVM’s head of infectious disease control, said at the weekly technical briefing on Wednesday.

Latest figures show coronavirus infections declining in all age groups, Van Dissel, said, while both the number of tests being taken and the proportion returning positive results are also falling.

Extra measures

The extra lockdown measures brought in on November 4, which are being lifted on Wednesday evening, had accelerated the decline by around 10%. In regions with high levels of infection such as Rotterdam and Twente the effect has been even more pronounced, Van Dissel said.

However, he warned that relaxing the lockdown rules too far over Christmas risked triggering a new rise in infections. Van Dissel pointed to Canada, which experienced a sharp increase following the Thanksgiving celebrations on October 12, as a cautionary tale.

‘It shows that there are risks when people come together,’ said Van Dissel. ‘If you want to make sure the risk is as small as possible, you need to observe some kind of quarantine before you go away. But the chance can never be zero.’

Rise in cases

The latest daily cases showed infections increased for the first time in four days, although the figures are incomplete because of technical issues. The RIVM reported 4,628 new positive tests, more than 300 higher than Tuesday’s figure, but the true figure is estimated to be around 1,000 higher.

The secure network used to send data from the local health services crashed on Tuesday afternoon and the error could not be rectified in time. The missing cases will be added in the next few days.

The number of patients in hospital fell by 59 to 2,087, of whom 559 are being treated in intensive care – 17 fewer than on Tuesday. Ernst Kuipers, head of the national acute care association, said regular healthcare was still being disrupted by the high number of Covid patients, despite the downward trend.

The high rate of infection in the elderly population has meant that two in five patients need intensive care treatment, compared to one in five during the first wave in the spring.

‘The change in hospitals is going very slowly. Every bed that comes free is immediately being used for a non-Covid patient,’ Kuipers said.

(DutchNews)

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