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Climate activists get month in jail for protesting Vermeer


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Two Belgian activists who targeted Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ painting during a climate protest last week were sentenced to two months in prison on Wednesday, prosecutors saying that their action “crossed a line” of acceptable protest.

Half of the sentence was suspended by a judge in The Hague, meaning the men will serve a month. A third suspect is due to appear in court on Friday. Their identities have not been disclosed, in accordance with Dutch privacy rules.

One man stuck his head to the glass protecting the 17th century masterpiece in the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague while another poured a can of thickened tomato soup over his head. The second man, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Just Stop Oil”, then stuck his hand to the wall next to the painting. A third man filmed the protest.

The painting was not damaged, but the glass covering it had to be replaced and the protest caused other minor damage, prosecutors said. The painting was put back on his wall a day later.

In a statement, prosecutors in The Hague said the “activists’ goal, important as you consider it, does not justify the means”.

Prosecutors had requested four-month sentences, saying they wanted to send a message that “paintings are hung in museums for appreciation, not exploited for militant purposes. Keep your hands away from them.

Earlier this month, climate protesters threw mashed potatoes at a Claude Monet painting in a German museum and a similar protest took place in London, where protesters threw soup on Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at the National Gallery. In these two cases, the paintings were not damaged.

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