Islamophobe Dutch MP cancels offensive cartoon contest

Geert Wilders has a history of inflammatory stunts against Islam. (AFP)
Updated 31 August 2018

Islamophobe Dutch MP cancels offensive cartoon contest

  • Plans by Wilders to hold a cartoon competition at his party's offices in parliament have stirred anger among Muslims, particularly in Pakistan
  • Man arrested on suspicion of trying to kill Wilders appears in Dutch court

AMSTERDAM: The Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders said on Thursday he was canceling plans to hold a highly inflammatory contest for cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The MP said he would never personally stop his campaign against Islam but the risk to innocents, and of attacks on the Netherlands, stemming from the proposed contest were too great, Reuters reported.

Earlier this week, Dutch police arrested a 26-year-old man suspected of threatening to attack Wilders over his plan.

On Thursday, the suspect briefly appeared in a Dutch court. He "is being suspected of committing a terrorist act, planning to commit murder and incitement," Dutch prosecutors said in a statement.

Police arrested the man at one of The Hague's main railway stations after he posted a film on YouTube saying he planned an attack on Wilders or the Dutch parliament.

The man, believed to be from Pakistan, also called on other Muslims for support.

"Authorities are taking the threat very seriously," the Dutch public prosecution service said in the statement.

"The investigation is ongoing" and the man is in custody "with maximum restrictions" meaning that he is only allowed to consult his lawyer.

Prosecutors did not release the suspect's name, saying at this stage they were reluctant to release further information.

He will remain in custody for another two weeks before a next appearance.

Plans by Wilders, an avowed anti-Islamist, to hold a cartoon competition at his PVV party's offices in parliament have stirred anger among Muslims, particularly in Pakistan.

The Netherlands on Wednesday updated its travel advice to Pakistan urging its citizens "to avoid demonstrations in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi."

"Stay alert and keep a low profile," the travel advice added.

A planned trade mission organized by the Dutch government and private companies in early November has also been postponed "until a later date," the government-run Netherlands Enterprise Agency said in a separate statement.

Wilders in June announced plans to stage a cartoon competition in parliament later this year to draw the Prophet Mohammed. He claims he has received 200 entries so far.

The Dutch competition's winner is set to receive a cash prize, Wilders said adding that the competition is not to "provoke or insult."

"We are organizing the competition because the freedom of speech is the most important freedom we have," he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte however has distanced his government from the cartoon competition, saying it was not a government initiative.

Rutte last week said he supported free speech in the Netherlands but believed the cartoon competition "not respectful" and aimed only to provoke.

"The aim is to provoke, rather than stimulate a debate about Islam," Rutte said – but he added Wilders was free to air his opinions.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan thousands of people demonstrated against the contest, in a march organized by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which also called on Pakistan and other countries to sever all ties with the Netherlands.

Images of Prophet Muhammad are forbidden in Islam as idolatrous and caricatures are regarded by most Muslims as highly offensive.

In 2005, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad that sparked a wave of protest across the Muslim world that led to scores of deaths.


Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

Updated 29 May 2020

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

  • Intelligence, immigration officials investigating illegal facilities that catered mostly to foreigners

MANILA: The Philippines has intensified its crackdown on uncertified medical facilities offering treatment to people, particularly foreigners, with COVID-19 symptoms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to help the Philippine National Police (PNP) track down foreign nationals behind the illegal clinics.
“It seems that clandestine medical clinics catering mostly to foreign nationals have sprouted and have been operating without proper authority,” Guevarra told reporters.
He said the facilities could have compromised the health of those who had undergone treatment.
“I’ll therefore ask the NBI and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them, and if warranted, to file the appropriate charges against them,” he added.
Guevarra issued the order following a raid on Tuesday on an illegal clinic catering to Chinese patients in Makati City. Arrested in the operation were Chinese nationals Dr. David Lai, 49, and Liao Bruce, 41.
The clinic was reportedly operating without a permit, while the arrested did not have a license to practice medicine in the country.
Seized from the site were swab sticks, vials, syringes and boxes of medicine with Chinese labels — believed to be unregistered with the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, law enforcers also swooped on a makeshift hospital for Chinese patients in the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga province.
The raid came after police received information that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” in a Fontana villa.
Arrested during the raid were Chinese nationals Liu Wei, who reportedly supervised the facility, and Hu Shiling, allegedly a pharmacist. Both were released on the same day without charge.
Immigration officials on Thursday said the duo had been placed on their watch list to prevent them from leaving the country while an investigation is underway.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said intelligence operatives will trace four of the patients, and are looking into the case of the Chinese nationals arrested in Makati.
“I’ve instructed our intelligence division to investigate if these alleged Chinese doctors are legally staying in the country,” he said.
“Should we find they violated our immigration laws, they’ll be charged with deportation cases before our law and investigation division,” he added.
“Even if no criminal charges were filed against them, they can be charged for immigration law violations if we can establish that they violated the conditions of their stay in the country.”
If criminal charges are filed, however, the BI will only deport them after their cases have been resolved or they have served their sentences, if convicted.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the “immediate deportation and blacklisting” of the Chinese nationals because of their “blatant disregard of our laws.”
She added that while the Philippines is working hard to protect its people from the virus, “these criminals freely roam and pose a danger to public health.”