Friday 24 November 2017

Prosecutors summing up in Geert Wilders hate speech trial

Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam Freedom Party, holds a sign reading 'No Hate Imams in the Netherlands' (AP)
Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam Freedom Party, holds a sign reading 'No Hate Imams in the Netherlands' (AP)

Dutch prosecutors have begun summing up their case against populist anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders in his hate-speech trial which pits freedom of expression against the Netherlands' anti-discrimination laws.

Prosecutor Wouter Bos stressed on Wednesday that the decision to put the popular but controversial Wilders on trial for anti-Moroccan statements in 2014 was driven by the law and not personal opinions.

Mr Bos said the decision "is based on a thorough analysis of the law, the specific circumstances of this case and the use of all the expertise of the prosecutor's office. Nothing more, nothing less."

Wilders, whose Freedom Party is riding high in opinion polls ahead of parliamentary elections in March, has refused to attend the trial, labelling it a political witch-hunt.


The trial centres on comments Wilders made before and after Dutch municipal elections in 2014.

At one meeting in a Hague cafe, he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, sparking a chant of "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!".

"We'll take care of it," he replied, in a video recording played in court.

Mr Bos said: "The trial touches on the foundations of society because two fundamental values are struggling for primacy, fundamental values of our free and democratic society - The ban on discrimination and the freedom of expression."

But he added: "Freedom of expression is not absolute. It goes hand-in-hand with obligations and responsibilities."

In a statement read in court by his lawyer earlier in the trial, Wilders defended his comments, saying: "It is my right and my duty as a politician to speak about the problems in our country."

Prosecutors are expected to make their sentence demand on Thursday, before Wilders's defence lawyers make their closing statement.

Wilders faces a maximum sentence of two years in jail if convicted of insulting a group based on race, and inciting hatred and discrimination.

However, prosecutors say courts mostly sentence people convicted of such offences to a fine or community service order.


Press Association

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