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Tuesday 26 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
Jens Meyer
# Hate speech
Dutch anti-Islam politician to snub his own hate speech trial
Geert Wilders is facing charges over comments made in 2014 about Moroccan residents in the Netherlands.

DEFIANT DUTCH ANTI-Islam politician Geert Wilders said he will refuse to attend his hate speech trial next week, dubbing it a travesty aimed at silencing him.

The trial opens on Monday before a three-judge bench with the far-right politician facing charges of insulting a racial group and inciting racial hatred for comments he made about Moroccans living in the Netherlands.

“It is my right and my duty as a politician to speak about the problems in our country,” Wilders said in a statement , dubbing the case “a political trial, in which I refuse to cooperate”.

It comes as opinion polls have shown his far-right Freedom Party (PVV) doing well ahead of March elections.

After riding high amid the migrant crisis, the party is now polling neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s Liberals each predicted to win between 25 to 29 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

Germany Anti-Islam Rally Jens Meyer / PA Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch anti-Islam Freedom Party, speaks at a rally. Jens Meyer / PA / PA

Set to last until 25 November , the trial focuses on a comment made at a March 2014 rally when Wilders asked supporters if they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?”

When the crowd shouted back “Fewer! Fewer!” Wilders answered: “We’re going to organise that.”

It is the second such trial for the politician who was acquitted on similar charges in 2011.

Wilders said this afternoon he would leave his defence in the hands of his lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops and instead “go to work” in the parliament in The Hague.

Netherlands Wilders AP / Press Association Images Geert holds a sign saying No Hate Imams in the Netherlands AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The court confirmed in a statement that the trial would go ahead, adding like any defendant, Wilders had the right not to appear.

While the court can force someone to turn up, “it is not known whether it will do so in this case,” it added.

Judges earlier this month dismissed arguments by Wilders’ lawyers that the trial was “politically motivated” adding they did not believe it will impact the PVV’s election campaign.

Politicians “are granted broad freedoms of expression because of their official position,” the judges ruled last month.

“Precisely therefore politicians have an important role to avoid feeding intolerance by making these kind of public statements.”

Wilders hit back saying “it is a travesty that I have to stand trial because I spoke about fewer Moroccans.”

“Millions of Dutch citizens want fewer Moroccans,” he claimed.

“Not because they despise all Moroccans or want all Moroccans out of the country, but because they are sick and tired of the nuisance and terror caused by so many Moroccans.”

Netherlands Politics Peter Dejong / PA Geert Wilders handing out self-defense sprays to women fearful of being attacked by migrants. Peter Dejong / PA / PA

Wilders drew flak when he unveiled his party’s controversial election programme saying he would confiscate Korans and close mosques if he wins the elections.

He is often described as “the most heavily guarded man” in The Netherlands and the trial is taking place in a high-security courthouse in Schiphol.

His name has “appeared on hit-lists drawn up by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Islamic State group”, according to his lawyer.

If found guilty, Wilders could face up to two years in jail or a fine of more than 20,000 euros ($22,000).

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