Climate Activists Who Glued Themselves to Famous Dutch Painting Sentenced to Prison

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge views Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer during a visit to the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands, October 11, 2016. REUTERS/Arthur Edwards/Pool/
November 2, 2022

AMSTERDAM (Reuters)—Two Belgian climate change activists who last week targeted the famous Johannes Vermeer painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" have been sentenced to two months in prison by the Dutch court, of which one month was suspended.

To highlight how seeing artwork destroyed evokes a similar feeling to seeing the planet destroyed, one activist glued his head to glass covering the world-famous painting at a museum in The Hague, though the artwork was not damaged, gallery staff said.

"An artwork hanging there for all, for all of us, to enjoy, has been smeared by defendants who felt their message took precedence over everything else," the prosecutor said.

The public prosecutor had asked for four months of which two suspended, but the judge said she did not want her sentence to discourage other people to demonstrate.

The two men went to trial through a fast-track judgment on charges of destruction and open violence against the painting. A third activist, who did not agree with the trial being fast-tracked, will appear in court on Friday.

All three are part of the climate group Just Stop Oil Belgium, which is not affiliated with Just Stop Oil in Britain. Just Stop Oil Belgium said the verdict was "ironic".

"Isn't it ironic that climate activists who nonviolently oppose the mass slaughter of life on Earth are being condemned?", the group said in an email.

(Reporting by Charlotte Van Campenhout; Editing by Josie Kao)