The crowdfunding campaign set up by Robin van Prattenburg for the 34 Frisians who blocked the A7 and are planning to appeal their sentence has raised nearly 200,000 euros in a week. That raises the question: how much does an appeal actually cost?
Translation by Traci White
The Leeuwarder Courant writes that although a formal appeal has yet to be filed, many of the defendants have indicated that they plan to appeal their sentences, which were handed down last week. The 34 Frisians, who blocked the A7 motorway last year to prevent protestors from reaching Dokkum, were primarily sentenced to community service, ranging from 80 to 200 hours.
Jenny Douwes, one of the main organisers of the blockade online, was sentenced to 240 hours. However, their legal representation, Tjalling van der Goot, has not yet formally begun the proceedings to appeal the ruling, nor has the Public Prosecution, which called for longer sentences. The sentences were ultimately lower because the judge found insufficient evidence that the group had used violence. All parties have until the 23rdof November to formally appeal. If the appeal moves forward, it could take up to a year before the Leeuwarden court could process the case.
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Outside of the courthouse in Leeuwarden on Friday afternoon, hundreds of supporters and a handful of opponents of the 34 so-called “blokeerfriezen” waited for the defendants to leave the building. After they left the courthouse following a week of hearings, the group paraded to the steps of the old courthouse on the Wilhelminaplein, singing and drinking. The men and women are accused of preventing anti-Zwarte Piet protestors from their right to peaceful demonstration by blocking the A7 motorway last year on the day of Sinterklaas’s nationally televised arrival in Dokkum. The buses had to brake abruptly, causing damage and minor injuries and creating a dangerous traffic jam. The defendants are likely to receive community services sentences, and they will be sentenced in the coming weeks. #leeuward #friesland #fryslan #protest #zwartepiet #blockade
How much does it cost to appeal a sentence?
Technically, appealing a sentence is free. A defendant does not have to pay any fees or dues, but they do have to pay for an attorney unless they use their right to defend themselves. Defendants with limited income can have a public defender assigned to their case.
According to Robin van Prattenburg, the man who started a campaign for the blockade participants last year and a new one this past week, the funds raised are going toward paying the legal fees for Van Der Goot and Wim Anker. “The first crowdfunding campaign was originally meant to raise money to cover any fines, but things turned out to go differently because the Public Prosecution sought to charge them with community service and even potential jail sentences of up to nine years.”
Van Prattenburg says that the initial 43,000 euros that were raised wound up covering legal fees, and the second fundraising campaign, which has raised 184,567 euros thus far, will be used to pay the attorneys if the defendants move forward with an appeal. Van Pattenburg told the Leeuwarder Courant that he would discuss what to do with any money remaining following the eventual appeal procedure with the defendants.
Freedom to protest
“The money is also being used to make a statement: you’re free to protest, but not around children”, Van Prattenburg writes. “I just want to make it clear that the people who blocked the highway did this for the kids. It’s not about the colour of Zwarte Piet, it’s about hardworking people who want to protect the kids.”
Last week, the judge in the case ruled that the men and women who blocked the highway had violated the protestor’s rights to peaceful demonstration. The defendants, several of whom received longer sentences due to prior criminal records, were also commanded to cover the expenses of the rented buses and the broken windshield of one vehicle, which cracked when a passenger hit it due to braking abruptly.
During the hearing, Jerry Afriyie, one of the members of Kick Out Zwarte Piet who was given to opportunity to testify, said that he and his fellow protestors are also concerned about creating a positive holiday experience for all children. “Believe me, Friesland: these people are not heroes. Your children and my children deserve better than this”, he said.
How is the lawyer’s bill tabulated?
Rob Green, deacon of the Order of Attorneys in the Northern Netherlands, says that in such a big case, the defendants and the law firm representing them will agree to an hourly rate. “Most attorneys charge 140 to 300 euros an hour.” The complexity of the case is also taken into consideration, and Greene says that in the A7 blockade trial, that would likely involve around 100 hours. That would mean a total of between 15,000 and 30,000 euros.” Anker & Anker, the law firm representing the defendants, does not publish their rates.
Back in 2017, when he launched the original campaign, the page read that in the unlikely event that any money was left over, it would be donated to a charitable cause focused on children, although which charity that would be was not specified.