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Jailed elderly Pro-Palestinian protester to be released in The Netherlands

Frans Rutgrink had gone on hunger strike against his detention and accused authorities of preventing his weekly pro-Palestine protest
Thousands of people in The Netherlands took part in protests to support Gaza in recent weeks (AFP)

A jailed elderly Dutch man has ended a hunger strike and will be released in the next 48 hours, after he accused authorities in The Netherlands of attempting to silence his pro-Palestinian activism.

74-year-old Frans Rutgrink will be freed from prison after a judge ruled his 10 day detention incorrect on Wednesday, according to sources in contact with the elderly protester. He was arrested on 24 August after police received a complaint that he had assaulted a man outside The Hague on 10 August. He is accused of kicking the unnamed man and causing a bowel injury that required surgery – Rutgrink denies the charges and his lawyer has told a very different story about the incident.

Rutgrink is well known for his weekly protest outside The Hague, which he has done for the past nine years between 12pm and 2.30pm each Saturday and Sunday. He holds signs decrying Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinians.

On 10 August during the one-man protest, his lawyer told local media, Rutgrink was grabbed by the shoulder and threatened by a man believed to be the person who lodged the police complaint.

“The man came very close [to Rutgrink] and said ‘I’ll kill you’ twice to my client,” his lawyer told the Dutch daily Denn Haag. “Out of fear and self-defence he [Rutgrink] pushed the man away, which caused him to fall over. Passers-by helped the man to get up, after which he walked away without help.”

A judge had previously offered to release Rutgrink on bail, with the condition that he stay away from the sites of his protest, but he refused and was ordered to remain in prison.

“Unacceptable. My client will not be silenced,” his lawyer said, adding that the offer was tantamount to barring Rutgrink from protesting in support of Palestine.

It is not the elderly protester's first run in with the law in relation to his political activities. In 2009 he was convicted of failing to handover to police fishing rods he was using as flagpoles at a pro-Palestine protest. 

A judge had approved Rutgrink to be detained for 90 days while investigations were completed but he will now be released. Rutgrink has filed his own complaint of assault against the unnamed man he is alleged to have injured. He has also ended a week long hunger strike, which his lawyer said had resulted in serious weight loss.

"He feels miserable and has lost many kilograms of weight," his lawyer said before today's court judgment. "He doesn't belong there [in prison]."

His supporters have campaigned for his release and on Wednesday held a rally in support of him at The Hague before a judge ordered his release.

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