Arrested Dutch anti-vaxxer Willem Engel remains in prison

Arrested Dutch anti-vaxxer Willem Engel remains in prison
Willem Engel. Credit: Belga

The Dutchman Willem Engel – known for his scepticism about the coronavirus and anti-Covid vaccines, and his lawsuit against Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst for defamation last year – remains in prison after he was arrested earlier this week.

Engel was arrested on Wednesday "on suspicion of sedition" and because he was "alleged to have posted inflammatory corona-related messages on social media over a long period of time."

His pre-trial detention has now been extended by two weeks, the Dutch judicial authorities announced on Friday.

"These messages [on social media] led others to commit or be incited to commit criminal offences," the public prosecutor's office said. Further information on this matter cannot be given, as the investigation is still ongoing.

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Additionally, the prosecutor's office stressed that freedom of expression is a fundamental right in the Netherlands. "But this freedom of expression is subject to limits. One of these limits is that statements may never incite others to commit criminal offences."

At the end of 2021, a collective complaint signed by 22,581 people was filed against Engel at the Rotterdam public prosecutor’s office, accusing him of provocation, dissemination of medical misinformation, swindling, terrorist statements and threats.

In Belgium, Engel is known for having sued virologist Marc Van Ranst for slander and defamation, twice. Van Ranst was acquitted on both occasions and donated the €4,000 compensation he received from the court to Unicef’s Covax programme, which provides vaccines for poorer countries who cannot afford their own.

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