Climate activists who targeted Vermeer sentenced to prison
Brussels, Nov 03: Two Belgian climate activists received two-month prison sentences on Wednesday, one of which is suspended, for attacking the renowned "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting by Johannes Vermeer at a museum in the Netherlands.
The incident was the latest in a string of attacks against art masterpieces in Europe, in an attempt to raise awareness regarding climate issues.
The activists' trial was fast-tracked, as they were charged with destruction and "open violence" against the painting. A third activist will face court on Friday, after refusing the fast-track trial.
Dutch prosecutors had called for a four-month prison sentence, with two months suspended. They argued that the defendants"smeared" the painting because they "felt their message took precedence over everything else."
However, the judge said her sentence was meant to refrain from discouraging demonstrations.
The activists belong to the climate group Just Stop Oil Belgium. In reaction to the verdict, the group said in an email seen by Reuters news agency: "Isn't it ironic that climate activists who nonviolently oppose the mass slaughter of life on Earth are being condemned?"
How did the attack unfold?
On October 27, images emerged on social media that showed activists throwing tomato soup over the painting at the Mauritshuis museum in the Hague.
One of the activists glued himself to the painting, which was behind glass, and another to the wall next to the masterpiece. A third activist threw the soup at the painting.
The museum said the painting was undamaged. It was returned on display a day after the attack, with the glass covering it replaced.
Similar previous attacks
Climate activists from Just Stop Oil Britain, which is independent from Just Stop Oil Belgium, threw soup at Vincent van Gogh's "Sunflowers" at London's National Gallery some three weeks ago.
Activists in Germany similarly threw mashed potatoes last week at a Claude Monet painting in Potsdam, a city near Berlin, to protest fossil fuel production.
Both paintings, as with Vermeer's painting, were enclosed behind protective glass shielding and weren't damaged.
Climate activists in Europe have been gluing themselves to famous paintings throughout the summer to lodge their protest against new gas and oil extraction projects.
The protests have ramped up as world leaders prepare to gather in Egypt for the United Nation's annual climate conference, COP27, later this week.