On Friday, the police judge in Zutphen imposed community service of up to 100 hours and suspended prison sentences of up to one month on eleven farmers. They were present on June 28 at the farmers’ protest that got out of hand in front of the home of nitrogen minister Christianne van der Wal.
“It is unacceptable that you visit a politician at home with a large group,” said the judge. “This is pure harassment.”
Nine men were given 100 hours of community service and a one-month suspended prison sentence. Two were given 60 hours of community service for covering a camera. One suspect was a minor and was sentenced to 80 hours of community service. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) had demanded community service of up to 120 hours and suspended prison sentences of up to two months.
On the evening of June 28, about 150 farmers and sympathizers drove from Bathmen to the minister’s home in Hierden with dozens of tractors. A police car was also destroyed.
Officers had to run for their lives as tractors drove through the blockade, the prosecutor said. Hay was spread over officers with a forage harvester, an air raid siren sounded and manure was dumped right in front of the minister’s house.
Earlier that month, farmers also visited the minister’s home. That’s why the police had blocked the access road to her house.
‘We just wanted to make ourselves heard’
According to the farmers, the protest was a spontaneous reaction to the handling of motions regarding the nitrogen dossier that afternoon in The Hague. “We didn’t mean to intimidate. We just wanted to make ourselves heard,” one of them told the judge.
Nearly all the suspects said they would have made a different choice afterwards. According to the public prosecutor, they thought they were untouchable with their tractors in front of a small group of officers.
Their behavior “disinhibited everything that happened that night,” the magistrate said. According to the judge, there was no question of a demonstration, which the activists mentioned.
Most activists were present at the verdict. “This is really incomprehensible,” one of them walked out of the courtroom, grumbling.