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Dutch court convicts men of torching virus testing center

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court convicted a young man and a teenager of arson Tuesday for torching a coronavirus testing site during violent protests in January that followed the introduction of a nationwide curfew to curb COVID-19 cases.

The court sentenced the 21-year-old man to a year in prison, with half the term suspended, and sentenced the 16-year-old boy to 180 days of youth detention, with 131 days suspended. The teen also was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.

The court said the pair broke into the compound of the test location in a fishing village near the harbor of Urk on Jan. 23 and the teenager set fire to a garbage container using a burning face mask.

The two then piled more material onto the fire along with a flammable disinfectant. The test location was destroyed in the ensuing blaze.

Both “are guilty of a serious criminal offense,” the court said in a statement. “Beyond that, the destruction of the test location meant that corona testing in Urk was impossible for a time.”

Both would have to serve the suspended parts of their sentences if they commit another crime.

The vast majority of people in the Netherlands accepted and complied with the curfew and other lockdown measures that the Dutch government has since mostly lifted. But a vocal minority protested, sometimes violently, against the restrictions.

On Monday, a court in the southeastern Netherlands found two men guilty of damaging another coronavirus test and treatment center in November by setting off powerful fireworks.

A 26-year-old man was sentenced to 120 days imprisonment with 109 days suspended and a 22-year-old man was given 120 days in youth detention, 110 days of which were suspended.

The Associated Press