Eurovision disqualifies Dutch act Joost Klein over incident involving female crew member

The Eurovision Song Contest was thrown into fresh turmoil Saturday when organizers disqualified the Dutch entrant hours before the grand final for a backstage incident involving a female crew member.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the annual event, taking place this year in Malmo, Sweden, said police were investigating the incident involving the singer Joost Klein and that it would not be appropriate for him to participate.

“Swedish police have investigated a complaint made by a female member of the production crew after an incident following his performance in Thursday night’s Semi Final. While the legal process takes its course, it would not be appropriate for him to continue in the Contest,” the EBU said.

A spokeswoman for the Swedish Police Authority said in a statement: “A man is suspected of unlawful threats. The crime is said to have been committed at Malmo Arena on Thursday evening.”

“The man [was] questioned by the police but not detained,” she added.

The Dutch public broadcaster AVROTROS acknowledged that an incident had occurred on Thursday night but criticized the decision to disqualify him. In a statement, the broadcaster said Klein had made a “threatening movement” towards a camera operator after repeatedly indicating that he did not want to be filmed. Klein had not touched the crew member, the broadcaster said, adding that the filming had taken place in contravention of agreed protocols.

The broadcaster said it had proposed a number of solutions but all were rejected. It said the decision to kick him out was “very heavy and disproportionate. We stand for good manners - let there be no misunderstanding about that - but in our view, an exclusion order is not proportionate to this incident.”

CNN has approached Klein’s team for comment.

The incident follows controversy about the participation of Israel in the contest. Pro-Palestinian protesters have been demonstrating daily in Malmo in the days running up to the competition. The EBU said the disqualification of Klein did not involve any other performer or member of another country’s delegation.

In a further indication of backstage tensions, the Irish artist Bambie Thug did not take part in the dress rehearsal on Saturday, saying that a “situation” required the attention of the EBU.

Tensions brew in Malmo ahead of final

Rumors about an incident involving Klein began to swirl around the delegations and press in Malmo on Friday afternoon when he did not perform as planned in a dress rehearsal. He was scheduled to rehearse directly before the Israeli entry, Eden Golan, which led to speculation – later dismissed – that the events were connected.

The controversy surrounding Golan’s entry has sown division in the contest, whose motto is “united by music”. The EBU instructed Israel to amend the words of its song, which was originally called “October Rain,” deeming it too political.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Golan in a video message for performing in the face of what he called “an ugly wave of antisemitism” while still “representing the state of Israel with great honor.”

But the contest has faced continued calls from some fans and pro-Palestinian activists to exclude Israel completely, citing the banning of Russia in 2022 following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Thousands of protesters are expected to gather at the Malmo Arena for the final on Saturday night, with the EBU facing the very real prospect that Israel could win the competition.

The atmosphere in Malmo has been subdued. Swedish police have deployed extra officers to the city in the wake of the tensions. Armed police are visible on many intersections, and there is a ring of extra security around the hotel where the Israeli delegation is staying. Security staff have been patrolling inside the venue where the official after-show parties have been taking place.

Israel secured a place in the final on Thursday, after which Italy’s broadcaster, RAI, accidentally revealed what appeared to be the result of the public’s televote. The results showed that Israel had picked up 39% of the public’s vote in Italy – representing a landslide win. RAI said the results were published by mistake, and later said that the data was “incomplete”. The EBU said it had told RAI the move was “in breach of the rules.”

Bookmakers have Israel as second favourite behind Croatia to win the competition. Switzerland’s Nemo, France’s Slimane, Ireland’s Bambie Thug and Ukraine’s Alyona Alyona and Jerry Heil are also considered top contenders.

The competition – which clings desperately to its apolitical tag – has become one of the largest cultural events to have been hit by the repercussions of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Israel’s military assault has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza since it was launched in response to Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel, in which at least 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage.

Many participants have faced calls to state their views on either the conflict, or the participation of Israel. Golan was booed by some sections of the crowd during her untelevised jury performance on Wednesday evening.

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