Speech given by Gideon van Meijeren at his Trial

05 juni 2024 | Gideon van Meijeren

First part of the speech given by Gideon van Meijeren at his trial for sedition, 28 May 2024


I. Introduction

President, members of the court, Madam Registrar, distinguished delegates,

Freedom of expression is not just a right. It is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy. It is the foundation upon which other freedoms spring from and rest on.

Without this freedom, a society cannot be dynamic and resilient. Without this freedom, ideas cannot clash and truth cannot prevail. Without this freedom, there is no possibility of holding power to account and we would be defenceless against attempts to oppress us.

As an elected member of Parliament, I represent a part of the Dutch people who share with me the strong conviction that we live in a time when the foundations of democracy and the rule of law have been seriously eroded. As a member of the opposition, I feel also feel a special responsibility to be critical of the government, to monitor it, to control, to expose abuses and corruption and to warn against what I see as totalitarian tendencies within our society.

It is not only my job, but also my duty, to be the voice of the minority and to stand up for the freedoms of all Dutch people when those freedoms are under pressure. That is not a duty I take lightly. It is a vocation that I follow with passion and dedication.

I speak loudly and clearly, even when my words are controversial or abrasive. Even when my words might shock or upset. In doing so, I respect the limits of the law. I call for awareness, but never for violence. Not because that is not allowed, but because I profoundly reject the use of violence.

It therefore feels unreal that I am standing here today, accused of having inciting violence against the government. Since I always and everywhere called for peaceful and therefore non-violent resistance, even on the occasions where I have made the challenged statements, these accusations can only stem from a deliberate misinterpretation of my message.

Although I am not confident of a fair trial - in my preliminary defence, I have already expressly argued that this can no longer be the case - I would like to take the opportunity to defend myself against these false accusations.

I will begin by reviewing the facts charged. I will then turn to the context as outlined by the prosecution. I then address the thrust of my statements and I conclude with a conclusion.

2. Charged facts

According to the prosecution, on two occasions I was guilty of inciting violence against the government.

The first time on July 2, 2022 at a rally in Tuil, where I reminded those present of the right to rebellion.  The second time in an interview with the platform Complete Thinkers which was published on 13 November 2022, in which I expressed hope for a revolutionary movement which would extend into parliament.

The prosecution acknowledges that on both occasions I did not call for violence, but that - in the words of the Prosecution - I gave people some ideas.

While it is true that even indirect incitement to violence can also qualify as sedition, that requires the content and tenor of the wording to be taken into account.

I will comment on both cases.

a. Tuil meeting

First, the meeting in Tuil.

i. Misrepresentation

First, the indictment incorrectly states that this concerns a speech at a public meeting. In the press release, the officer even spoke of a demonstration. This is factually incorrect. It was not a public gathering. It was a private gathering, on a private property. It was accessible only to those who had booked a ticket in advance. This part of the indictment can therefore already not be proven, because it is factually and demonstrably false.

Because the context in which statements were made is of great importance, I find it particularly objectionable that here a factually incorrect picture of that context is painted. The picture being painted is that at a public demonstration I shouted at a crowd. In reality, it was a small-scale, private gathering with a limited number of seats, where visitors - farmers and non-farmers - while enjoying a snack and a drink could listen to a lecture of about an hour, which I gave there.

This is an important difference, because a speech at a demonstration is generally intended to activate the attendees and incite them to action. My lecture at this closed meeting was mainly meant to inform, to facilitate the social facilitate debate, to encourage reflection and to engage in a dialogue with each other - which is what happened. To assess whether my statements could be construed as inflammatory, it is important to first initially have an accurate picture of the nature of that meeting, its purpose, atmosphere and so on.

What about the statements I am said to have made? The first thing that stands out about the indictment is it has very selectively cut the message I expressed. I understand that an entire lecture of an hour cannot be included verbatim in the indictment but only that passage in which I made the allegedly inflammatory statements. But even in the passage included in the indictment, we see at several places a so-called ellipsis, the three dots between brackets, indicating that text has also been omitted from the quotation in question. That too can justified in order to remove irrelevant parts deleted, but the public prosecutor used it in a very in a very bad way. He precisely removed the very relevant parts which change the entire essence of the quote, the overall thrust of my wording, my core message. The reader of the indictment is seriously misled by this selectivity.

It starts by omitting a very relevant passage which I uttered half a minute before I made the statements I have been charged with. There I said, and I quote, ‘Protest and resistance should always be peaceful and non-violent. I am a great, great supporter of that. I say that from my deepest conviction. I believe that non-violent resistance is the most effective and ultimately the most important weapon we have against our opponents.’ End quote.

Did the prosecutor not find this quote relevant to assess whether I might have indirectly called for violence? That seems inconceivable to me. He must have deliberately omitted it because it is exculpatory material. So this tends towards withholding exculpatory material, which is very objectionable.

Furthermore, the indictment contains the following quote from me: ‘The bottom line is that we have also all have the right to rebel.’ End of quote. This statement should therefore, according to the officer, also be classified as an indirect call to violence. Because perhaps after all, by doing so, I may be giving people the idea that they have to use violence.

I already find that very far-fetched, but to the extent that there can be any doubt about the interpretation of this quote, what I said directly before this is of fundamental importance.  So let's look at the whole quote. The whole quote reads as follows:

‘I think it is very important always to continue to argue - and I do so everywhere - for peaceful, non-violent resistance. peaceful, non-violent resistance. We only play into the hands of our opponents if we start using violence now. We should not do that. You lose a lot of sympathy, also from the citizens, but the bottom line is that we also have the right to rebel.’ 

That suddenly casts a very different light on my statement. Would anyone hearing this entire quote also be the idea that violence should be used? No, of course not.  I am saying exactly the opposite.

Chairman, members of the court. No one, but no one, who attended the entire lecture, was thereby even the slightest idea that violence should be used.

Even an ANP journalist, who attended the entire lecture attended and wrote along throughout, did not could not hear a single call to violence in it. On the contrary. After the meeting, his article appeared in various media, including the Leidsch Dagblad, the Rijswijks Dagblad, the Dagblad van het Noorden, De Limburger, nieuws.nl and even Linda.nl posted his article.

The headline of the article reads: ‘FVD supports announced farmers‘ actions’. The first sentences read, ‘Forum for Democracy (FVD) supports the announced actions next Monday by farmers. This was said by FVD MP Gideon van Meijeren Saturday at a meeting in Tuil in Gelderland about the cabinet's nitrogen plans. Van Meijeren did not himself express which actions he exactly support, but farmers threatened a blockade on Monday, including of airports and supermarket distribution centres. They are protesting against plans for nitrogen reduction by the government. Van Meijeren called for protest without violence.’ Not a word about sedition, incitement to violence, or anything to that effect. Nothing.

In short: a journalist from the ANP, who is supposed to be to be objective - and the ANP is certainly not exactly known for being favourably disposed towards FVD, on the contrary - attended the entire lecture, hears in my lecture a call to protest without violence. Nor could he do otherwise, because that was literally my call. If I had there been a disguised call for violence, or in any crossed a line in any way crossed, this ANP journalist would be the first to write it up. But he simply could not make that out of my words.

The prosecutor, on the other hand, who did not attend the lecture attended, has been cutting into the text to such an extent, that only someone who hears only that manipulated version could possibly be given the idea that violence needs to be used. Surely that gives us an idea of about the prosecutor's intentions. Is he, who is spreading this manipulated version of my statements and his evil interpretation of them, not the one who is giving people wrong ideas?

Chairman, members of the court, it is quite something that the officer has cut and tinkered to such an extent to distort the truth. I find this unacceptable. On Twitter and even in the mainstream media, I am by now used to such defamatory cutting and pasting. That tweeters and even NOS edit a video so that from a one-hour speech four phrases are cut and pasted one after the other, thus doing extreme violence to reality is also very reprehensible, but unfortunately to be expected. But the public prosecutor represents the state and is tasked with serving the interest of society. His goal should be to establish the truth, and he should adopt a fair and objective attitude in doing so attitude. He is even legally obliged to weigh up both incriminating and exculpatory evidence. And unlike, say, the NOS, which of course should also be objective, there is an important difference, namely that the NOS cannot proceed to criminal prosecution and the public prosecutor can. I therefore find it really unacceptable that the public prosecutor abuses his position of power in this way abuses his position of power and, like the media, goes along with pure demonisation of me as a person.


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