THE NETHERLANDS – Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema’s son was arrested in July. He was caught in connection with an armed burglary, and police officers in the city fear that the case will be covered up, the Telegraaf wrote on Wednesday. That is not what happened, the mayor argued in a public letter and translated below.
According to the Telegraaf, the 15-year-old boy was arrested after a foot chase on July 14th. He and another boy were allegedly seen breaking into a houseboat. After the arrest, the police found two knives and a gas replica alarm pistol that the boys had brought with them, the newspaper writes. According to the newspaper, there is “great dissatisfaction” within the police and Public Prosecution office, because the arrest has been kept quiet for weeks.
In an open letter to Amsterdam residents released on Wednesday morning, Halsema defended her son and accused De Telegraaf of condemning her underage child for a crime he didn’t commit. According to the mayor, her son did not participate in an armed burglary. He was messing around with friends and had the fake weapon with him with which they were taking selfies. Those weapons, she acknowledged, are prohibited. They found a neglected and abandoned houseboat, which they entered, she wrote. They caused a commotion with old fire extinguishers they found.
“Police came across the nuisance, my son ran, threw away the fake weapon in a panic, and was then caught,” the mayor stated.
“He thereby violated the law – he should not have had the fake weapon on him and he should not have entered the abandoned boat – and for that he will have to bear the consequences.” According to Halsema, she insisted from the start that her son be treated as any other Amsterdam boy. “The only thing I hoped was that people would be discreet because my position makes my son vulnerable to publicity that can haunt him for years.” She did not ask for his name to be shielded, but was relieved when the police did so, and she learned this often happens with underage suspects, she said.
The case is taking longer than expected, because it was transferred to the Public Prosecution Service in Haarlem in order to avoid accusations of favoritism or the suggestion of concealment, the mayor wrote. “There is no cover-up. This is a private matter, a fifteen-year-old boy whose data would never have been made public in comparable cases”, she said.
The full text of mayor Halsema’s letter, translated from Dutch:
This letter is unusual. I have also been placed in a very unusual situation and feel compelled to write to you. This morning, De Telegraaf announced in big letters that my 15-year-old son would have committed an armed burglary. Over (the first) 3 pages it is reported that there would be a cover up on top of it because this was not brought out. Reference is made to anonymous sources.
It is not my habit to respond, but now that my underage son is being damaged, I think it is necessary to explain what is really going on.
My son did not commit n armed burglary. My son had a (forbidden) fake weapon with him which he took selfies with and was with friends messing around. They found a neglected and abandoned houseboat, which they entered. There they found old fire extinguishers that they dragged out and sprayed. Police came across the nuisance, my son ran, threw away the fake weapon in a panic, and was then caught.
He thereby violated the law – he should not have had the fake weapon on him and he should not have entered the abandoned boat – and for that he will have to bear the consequences.
I picked him up, punished him and then talked to him endlessly. We then nervously waited fr a few weeks while the interrogation took place, investigations were done until we were informed by the lawyer that the case might take a little longer because the Amsterdam Public Prosecutor had transferred it to the Haarlem office to avoid a reproach of favoritism or that the suggestion of a ‘cover-up’ would arise. We have since been waiting for a follow-up.
From the start I was keenly aware of my responsibility as mayor of this city. Already on the evening that it happened I told the police that my son should be treated like any Amsterdam boy. The only thing I hoped was that people would be discreet because my position makes my son vulnerable to publicity that can haunt him for years. I did not ask for his name to be shielded, but I was grateful to the police when I later learned that this often happens and was done in his case.
In addition, I immediately informed the municipal secretary and the integrity office of the municipality because I do not want any conflict to arise between my concern as a mother and my responsibility as a mayor.
I did not talk about it in the triangle [of mayor, police and Prosecutor], I informed the Commissioner and the chief prosecutor that we as parents are handling the matter with the officers on duty.
There is no cover-up. This is a private matter, a fifteen-year-old boy whose data would never have been made public in comparable cases. With which the police have official confidentiality and journalists would not care about throwing the data of other minor Amsterdam boys with no criminal record on the street. From today everyone knows what he has done. Friends, family, teachers. Before a court decision was made, De Telegraaf sentenced him on the front page for a crime he did not commit. I deserve to be checked every day and called to account. That is part of my office. My son is a ordinary Amsterdam boy who has indeed made a mistake that he must correct. He doesn’t deserve any public punishment just because he’s my son.