Court story by the Today Newspaper
GREAT BAY – Former Member of Parliament Leroy de Weever sat in court as a suspect yesterday morning, but the real culprit in the case turned out to be his perceived victim, the blogger Judith Roumou, whose notoriety was confirmed by De Weever’s attorney Geert Hatzmann who labeled her as “an internet terrorist.”.
The prosecution has charged De Weever with the theft of a tablet from Roumou during an encounter that took place on January 11 of last year on Front Street. The evidence is based on statements from the perceived victim and from a friend of hers and on video footage.
The prosecution showed the footage in court yesterday, but for the casual observer it was impossible to establish whether the 61-year old former politicians was indeed taking off with a tablet in his hands. De Weever denies emphatically that he took anything from the blogger.
Judge E.M.D. Angela attempted to keep the lid on the blogger’s unsavory behavior by pointing out that she only wanted to focus on the matter at hand – the theft of the tablet. That did not go down too well with attorney Geert Hatzmann, who emphasized the importance of the circumstances that led to the perceived incident.
De Weever’s second attorney, Safira Ibrahim said in a preliminary defense argument that the prosecution should be declared inadmissible because there was no decision from the Common Court of Justice in the dossier that gave permission for De Weever’s prosecution.
At the time of the incident – January 11, 2014 – De Weever was a member of parliament. The rules laid down in the national ordinance that regulates the prosecution of politicians applies; this ordinance requires indeed permission to prosecute from the Common Court.
Prosecutor Noordzij countered that the demand for a judicial preliminary investigation had been granted on January 8, 2015. At that time, de Weever was no longer a member of parliament.
Judge Angela decided to continue with the case and to make the request to declare the prosecution inadmissible part of her ruling that will come down on November 4.
The case seems to be simple: De Weever encountered Roumou on Front Street, had some sort of argument, and took her tablet away. But simple it is not, prosecutor Noordzij also admitted.
“We are talking about simple theft. This is the first time that we have a full tribune for such a case, and the first time that the dossier is five centimeters thick.”
The prosecutor spoke about a “long-running conflict” between the defendant and the blogger. Roumou has blogged about “the close contacts between the defendant and the former parliamentarian Patrick Illidge who has been sentenced for corruption.” Noordzij said.
“Media-attention comes with playing a significant role at the highest levels,” Noordzij said. “Bloggers also write about you. That is also part of the work of a prosecutor. You know that that can be a consequence. If you cannot handle that you should look for another job.”
While Noordzij noted that Roumou is free to write about the contacts between De Weever and Illidge, he also pointed out that freedom of expression has its limits. The dossier contains countless statements indicating that Roumou transgressed those limits through defamation of character, libel and insults and that she systematically and unlawfully oversteps the boundaries of De Weever’s privacy – a situation qualified as stalking.
“This is not the topic of discussion today,” Noordzij said. “Whether the victim has violated the limits of free speech will be the topic of another procedure.”
The prosecutor said that there is no evidence for Roumou’s claim that De Weever ill-treated her, and the latter had not been charged with this either. The video does not show any physical contact and there is no medical report to confirm that the blogger sustained injuries.
Noordzij said that the video images show clearly that De Weever walks off with the tablet and that he holds it up in triumph. He considers alternative explanations implausible. De Weever said that it could have been a handkerchief or a check he was holding.
The prosecutor’s office offered De Weever an out of court settlement – a conditional dismissal – but the defendant had turned the offer down. “Then there is no other option that presenting the case to the court,” Noordzij said. He demanded a 750 guilders fine, but abstained from demanding that the court grants the victim’s claim for damages.