DDutch courts on Wednesday sentenced three Belgian environmentalists to two months in prison, one of which was suspended, for targeting “The Girl with a Pearl earring” painting in The Hague last week to warn public opinion about the climate emergency.
Johannes Vermeer’s famous portrait of Wouter M. and Peter G., who filmed the protest action. Both were convicted in expedited court proceedings before a court in The Hague.
The judge ruled that damages were established, a move that shocked many. “One can imagine the vulnerability of such a painting and the fact that it could have been lost if things had gone wrong,” he said. With this sentence, which he described as moderate, the magistrate assured that he did not want to discourage any protest action.
The third defendant, Wooter M., stuck his hand on the wall where the painting was hung. Prosecuted for throwing the red liquid on him, he refused to stand trial under the expedited regime. He is expected to appear in court on Friday.
The management of Mauritshuis, where the canvas is on display, pointed out that the precious masterpiece, protected by a glass window, was not damaged by climate defenders, but its frame. The damage was estimated at around 2,000 euros.
During the action, one of the three activists shouted: “This painting is protected by glass, but the future of our children is not protected”. In court, Wouter M., a climate activist already known for disrupting the Tour of Flanders, said he had carefully studied the painting’s safety before his action. He also put forward in his defense the fact that he did not use all the glue in the tube he had.
Juststop Oil Belgium “stunned”
The public prosecutor sought a four-month prison sentence, two of which were suspended. The defense argued for an acquittal. Many activists from the climate movement Doomsday Rebellion showed their support for the activists outside the courtroom on Wednesday.
The JustStop Oil Belgium movement, which inspired last week’s action, said it was “appalled” by Wednesday evening’s condemnations because “companies responsible for destroying life on Earth are getting away with not harming it”. “The disproportionate oppression of our fellow activists highlights the deep collusion between the Dutch government and the fossil fuel industry. When will Shell, Total Energies and other environmental criminals be punished for their crimes against humanity?”, he commented in a press release.
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