Monday

22nd Apr 2019

Leaked papers 'compromise' Wilders' right to fair trial

The second trial against Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders commenced on Friday (18 March) in Amsterdam with a dramatic call for an investigation into leaked documents.

Dutch newspaper AD had announced on Thursday night it would publish excerpts of documents from Wilders' legal team that contained their legal strategy.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“Apparently someone has gained access to these documents,” said Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops. He called the leak an “attack on this trial” and said it was a “breach of the right to a fair trial”. He said his legal team was now unsure if their lawyer-client communication can be conducted confidentially.

He asked the court to investigate the leak before the next session, which is scheduled for 26 May 2016. He also began his defence against the charges.

While Friday's session was, in formalterms, just a preparatory meeting to determine witnesses and other due process, Knoops gave an extensive plea that lasted almost five hours.

The question the Dutch court will investigate over the coming months is: Where does freedom of speech for politicians end and where does their responsibility not to insult groups or to incite hatred begin?

In March 2014, Wilders spoke twice about the extent to which his supporters want to have “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands.

The public prosecutor said on Friday that freedom of speech is important, but that it is “not absolute”.

He said it entails “obligations and responsibilities”, including the responsibility not to pit incite parts of the population against each other.

The prosecutor said that, according to one witness, Wilders’ first comment on his voters wanting “if at all possible, fewer Moroccans” was a slip of the tongue. But the second time he brought it up, one week later, it was premeditated.

According to another prosecution witness, a Wilders foot soldier on the second occasion prepared the crowd by telling them what Wilders would talk about and when they should chant “fewer, fewer, fewer”.

Out of context

Wilders' lawyer Knoops said the public prosecutor had taken the comments out of context.

Knoops said that Wilders had also asked the crowd if they wanted “less Europe” and “less Labour party” in their city. The lawyer invited the court to bring in what he called “scientific” experts to evaluate Wilders’ “fewer Moroccans” comment in the context of his whole career.

Knoops said the Netherlands lacks a “consistent theory” on the limitations of free speech.

He also said the fact that the Dutch deputy prime minister had publicly criticised Wilders’ “fewer Moroccans” comment meant that ordinary Dutch people see him as being guilty before the trial even began.

Knoops said procedural issues further harm the integrity of the trial.

He said some of the Moroccan witnesses, especially older ones, had filled out police forms that they did not understand and that some forms were filled out for them by other people.

The public prosecutor noted that 6,475 people had filed complaints, but that their quantity was not a factor in his decision on whether to open the case.

Heavy security

The trial was held at a heavily guarded complex near the country's main airport, Schiphol in Amsterdam.

It takes place two years after Wilders made the comments about Moroccans and at a time when his party is riding high in polls.

Wilders himself was also in the room, but would only speak at the end of the hearing.

At 4PM, the court suspended the sitting for at least one hour to give the public prosecutor the time to prepare a response to the Knoops’ plea, which had been surprisingly long.

It is the second time that Wilders is in court on suspicion of insulting a group and inciting hatred. He was cleared of all charges in the former case in 2011.

Wilders convicted for insulting Moroccans

Dutch court says far right politician should not have made his statements calling for "fewer Moroccans" in 2014. However, he will not receive any jail sentence or fine.

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us