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 – was arrested for sedition on Wednesday.
Jeroen Pols, a lawyer who regularly assists Engels, announced the news on Twitter.
"Willem Engel has just been arrested by the police for 'sedition'. The Rutte regime (the Dutch Government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte) launches a full-scale attack on critics and opposition. In the meantime, they have a big mouth about democracy in Russia," Pols said.
In the meantime, the Dutch public prosecutor's office announced that a 45-year-old man from Rotterdam was arrested "on suspicion of sedition" this morning. The suspect is also "alleged to have posted inflammatory corona-related messages on social media over a long period of time."
The prosecutor's office announced that the Rotterdam police had launched an exploratory investigation following several reports. "Based on the first results of this investigation into the suspect's actions, it has been decided to make an arrest."
On Friday, the suspect will appear before the investigating judge, who will decide whether to extend his arrest. "As the investigation is still ongoing, no further announcements will be made."
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According to Pols, Willem Engel was arrested after leaving the polling station for the Rotterdam municipal elections. Engel is due to appear in court on 30 March in a trial for provocation, and Pols expects him to remain in detention until then, reports the Belga News Agency.
The 'Viruswaarheid' ("Virus truth" in Dutch) protest group was founded by Engel in early 2020 to criticise the Dutch government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and organised several protests against the measures.
At the end of 2021, a collective complaint signed by 22,581 people was filed against him 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.