Wednesday, September 22, 2010


In other news, today the Hoge Raad upheld the acquittal of Jonas Staal, who had been accused of threatening Geert Wilders by creating fake memorials for him, little places by the side of the road with flowers, candles and cuddly toys and pictures of the "deceased". Mr. Wilders, ever the champion of free speech, pressed charges, but the accused was acquitted by the court of first instance, the court of appeals and the Hoge Raad.

The key issue seems to be whether these communications could reasonably be interpreted as an actual threat, instead of "little works of art, intended to provoke discussion" as the defendant had claimed. To be precise, the legal analysis focuses on the intention to create fear in Mr. Wilders. It seems to have been uncontested that the defendant did not subjectively intend to creat such fear, but the prosecution argued that he "willingly and knowingly" accepted a significant risk that his work would be interpreted as a threat. (Which is the legal definition for constructive dolus, i.e. the place where culpa is so severe that it rises to the level of intent.) Given that the alleged threat was not communicated directly to the victim, but rather to the general public, and its relatively oblique nature, containing no specifics as to how and when the alleged threat was to be carried out, all three courts acquitted.

Court Press Statement (in Dutch), GeenStijl (in Dutch) and NRC on-line (also in Dutch).

No comments: