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THE HAGUE: A Dutch court on Tuesday told the government to immediately lift a nationwide coronavirus curfew that sparked the worst riots in the Netherlands for decades.

The government wrongly used emergency powers to bring in the first curfew since the Nazi occupation in World War II, a judge at The Hague district court ruled.

The case was launched by the Viruswaarheid (Virus Truth) group, which has led a series of protests against coronavirus measures in the Netherlands.

“The curfew must be lifted immediately,” the court said in a statement.

“The curfew is a far-reaching violation of the right to freedom of movement and privacy.”

The Dutch government swiftly challenged the decision to lift the 9:00 pm to 4:30 am curfew, and the court of appeal was due to hear the case at 1500 GMT on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte called on people to “keep respecting the curfew” even if the appeal failed.

“If the curfew was not based on the correct legal basis at this time... that does not mean that this measure is not necessary,” Rutte told a news conference.

Viruswaarheid group founder Willem Engel — a dancing teacher whose social media posts raise questions about vaccines and the origins of coronavirus — hailed the ruling.

“I’ve had hundreds, thousands of messages of congratulations. People are very happy, they feel liberated,” Engel told AFP.

“Of course we’re not there yet, we have many more steps to go, but I think that there will be some joyful demonstrations here and there this evening.” The curfew began on January 23 and was extended last week until March 2.

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