Dutch politician Geert Wilders convicted of incitement

Geert Wilders

The Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders has been convicted of insulting a group and inciting discrimination.

But no penalty was imposed by the court near Amsterdam on Wilders, whose party is leading in polls ahead of parliamentary elections in March.

Wilders was also acquitted of inciting hate over telling supporters in March 2014 he would ensure there were fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.

The three-week trial was triggered when police received 6,400 complaints about remarks Wilders made during a municipal election campaign in The Hague.

At a campaign meeting, he asked supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands.”

When the crowd shouted back “Fewer! Fewer!” a smiling Wilders responded: “We’re going to take care of that.”

At the trial, prosecutors took testimony from Dutch-Moroccans who said his comments made them feel like “third-rate citizens.”

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Wilders had argued his comments should be protected by his right to freedom of speech.

But judges ruled there were limits and that this right could not be used to limit the freedom of others – in this case, a minority group.

“If a politician crosses the line, that doesn’t mean free speech is being restricted,” said Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis. “A crime cannot be protected by the right to free speech.”

Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) is currently 10 percentage points ahead of the ruling liberal party in the polls.

The judges who convicted Wilders
The judges who convicted Wilders

In response to the guilty verdict, Mr Wilders accused the judges of convicting “half of the Netherlands” – a reference to research commissioned by the PVV which found 43% of the Dutch public believe the country has a problem with Moroccans.

He said: “While the day before yesterday, scores of Moroccan asylum seekers terrorized buses in Emmen and did not even had to pay a fine, a politician who asks a question about fewer Moroccans is sentenced. The Netherlands have become a sick country.

“And I have a message for the judges who convicted me: You have restricted the freedom of speech of millions of Dutch and, hence, convicted everyone. No-one trusts you anymore. But, fortunately, truth and liberty are stronger than you. And so am I. I will never be silent. You will not be able to stop me.

“And you are wrong, too. Moroccans are not a race, and people who criticize Moroccans are not racists. I am not a racist and neither are my voters. This sentence proves that you are completely out of touch.

“And I also have a message for Prime Minister Rutte and the rest of the multicultural elite. You will not succeed in silencing me and defeating the PVV. Support for the Party for Freedom is stronger than ever and keeps growing every day. The Dutch want their country back. And cherish their freedom. It will not be possible to put the genie of positive change back in the bottle.”

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