After a year-and-a-half of court appearances, arrests and surveillance, the Amsterdam chapter of Hells Angels, the motorcycle group, is throwing a party to raise money to pay its mounting legal bills.
|Dutch Angels say the fundraiser is |
"open for all"
Speaking to Al Jazeera after a court in Amsterdam ruled that the club should not be banned, Harold, the group's spokesman, said the event was to show everyone that his group was "open for all to see".
Prosecutors allege that the club is involved in drugs, violence and gun-running and have vowed to press on in their efforts to ban them, despite their failure to do so on Wednesday.
"They always bring those charges against us. They say we are criminals dealing in guns and drugs, but it's not true, and that's why we are organising this party, to raise money and show everyone who we are," said Harold, who goes by only his first name.
The court, however, said that despite the ruling, "it still believed some members of the group have been involved in crime, but limiting the right to freedom of association is only possible in very rare cases", Dutch News reported.
Prosecutors also say that the club discriminates against non-members and intimidates the public with criminal activities. Police have also been watching the club and the homes of some members, as prosecutors seek to close down other chapters in the Netherlands.
We are under 24-hour surveillance, from our club to our homes. Just last month the police arrested 50 members
Harold, speaking on behalf of the 104 Angels in the Dutch capital, said: "If we do go to court again then I am confident they will not be able to prove anything, as nothing is going on.
"We are under 24-hour surveillance, from our club to our homes. Just last month the police arrested 50 members, but they were released after two weeks as they couldn't press any charges for not having evidence."
Harold also said that the media has played an important role in the investigations and are finally change people's attitudes towards them.
"When all this started the media was negative, but now it's mixed," he said. "A lot of television shows were following the government's line without really speaking to us.
"We work and pay taxes just like everyone. We are normal people but we are Hell's and we ride
"Journalists now are asking the right questions - after speaking to us, investigating and analysing us - and all I ask them, 'Why not before guys?' Now they need to write the real story."
Harold said the party was dedicated to the people who gave their support from the beginning, but was open to all.
He said: "I don't know how much money we need or how much money we are going to make, but this event is an open house for everyone to enjoy the live bands, the drink and the good food."
Message of support
The group has received messages of support and donations from chapters as far away as Japan and the United States.
"The support has been fantastic; everyone has been kind in sending their messages of good will and donations, hopefully some riders from abroad will be able to make the journey here," Harold said.
Speaking about the continuing legal battle, he said: "We don't know when the next court date is or what they are going to do next, but the ministry is wasting taxpayers' money.
"We work and pay taxes just like everyone. We are normal people but we are Hells and we ride."
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Source: Al Jazeera