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Mayor of Veldhoven under fire during hearing on Eritrean Conference

Article was translated from Dutch using online software 

Mayor of Veldhoven under fire during hearing of Eritrean conference

By Karlijn Houterman | Omroepbrabant

Veldhoven - "It really hurt to take this decision." Mayor Jack Mikkers of the municipality of Veldhoven had to justify, Thursday night, about the cancellation of the Eritrean conference in mid-April. He did this partly because he could not guarantee their safety. But attorney Bart-Jan Walraven thinks otherwise. "The police had it under control."

The hearing on the decision that Mikkers made took place Thursday evening and lasted almost three hours.

Mikkers banned the event of Eritrean Youth Conference YPFDJ after riots broke out at the entrance to the conference center. The rioters were especially upset because a confidant of the Eritrean president would be there. It was planned that he would speak to compatriots who have left their homeland. Many Eritreans who fled feared "the long arm of Eritrea."

More than 150 objections

There were more than one hundred and fifty objections submitted to the municipality against the decision of Mikkers. The majority is represented by Attorney Walraven. He stood opposite of Mikkers Thursday evening during a hearing at an independent Commission.

Walraven had several pieces in hand which he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These included about police reports indicating that the police had to intervene at times, but the demonstrators were "often under control."

'Signals from hundreds of protesters'

Walraven wondered why the authorities, especially Mikkers, had not banned the demonstration, instead of the conference. Mikkers: "If I'd banned the demonstrators, that would not mean that they would not come, we had indications that there would be hundreds of demonstrators.." The police would not have the capacity to defend against such a large group at the Conference Center.

Whether those 'signals' are well-founded or not is the question. About three to four weeks the Commission will adopt a decision.

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