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Netherlands19 May 2008

Cartoonist freed after being held for 30 hours

Last week’s arrest of a controversial cartoonist who uses the pseudonym Gregorius Nekschot and a search of his home were condemned today by Reporters Without Borders as “disproportionate.”

Nekschot was released on 16 May after spending 30 hours in police custody as a result of a complaint filed by an imam in 2005 about cartoons on his website ( attacking Islam and the Dutch political establishment.

The police said they had to search Nekschot’s home as it was the only way “to establish that he was the author of the offending cartoons.” Nekschot has always refused to give his real name to the press.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement : “After examining the confiscated material, it became clear that the man occupying the house was Gregorius Nekschot (...) Eight of the dozens of cartoons that were examined exceed the limits of freedom of expression. They are reprehensible (...) discriminatory and (...) incite hatred or violence (...) and have been withdrawn from Gregorius Nekschot’s website.”

In an interview for the newspaper De Volkskrant on 17 March, Nekschot said : “Artists and cartoonists are gagged in the Netherlands. In Denmark they protect cartoonists but in the Netherlands the police arrest them.”

Reporters Without Borders said : “Nekschot’s arrest and the search of his home are incomprehensible. The Dutch police had many other ways to identify who did the cartoons as he does not seem to have hidden the fact that he drew them. The complaint filed in 2005 does not justify the disproportionate measures used, even if the offending cardoons are shocking and in very bad taste.”

The public television station NOS reported that politicians of all tendencies have criticised Nekschot’s arrest and the search of his home as “excessive.”

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