Opponents of the conference demonstrate on Thursday. Photo: Bram Saeys v HH
The decision by Veldhoven’s mayor to ban a conference by the only political party permitted in Eritrea was upheld by a court in Den Bosch on Friday afternoon.
The organisers of the conference went to court to have the ban against their meeting at a conference centre in Veldhoven lifted.
Mayor Jack Mikkers said on Thursday evening he would not allow the meeting to go ahead, after police arrested over 100 demonstrators who had gathered outside the conference centre where the gathering was due to be held.
The 128 people arrested were all released from custody on Friday morning and the public prosecution department has yet to decide if any of them should face charges, broadcaster NOS said.
Despite the ban, local broadcaster Omroep Brabant said the meeting had started on Friday afternoon. According to the conference Facebook page, some 500 people are in attendance.
However, a spokeswoman for the conference centre told the broadcaster that an alternative programme of music is taking place instead.
Many Eritrean refugees in the Netherlands regard the conference as an act of provocation, Tilburg University professor Mirjam van Reisen told NOS earlier this week. ‘The government wants to show the Eritrean community that it still rules in the Netherlands,’ she said.
Eritrea has been condemned by the UN for crimes against humanity and the UN estimates hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled the country in recent years.
Dutch government ministers said earlier this week they were unhappy about the meeting being held on Dutch soil but that there were no grounds to ban it in advance.