Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Wilders trial: Judge rejects request to quiz Dutch PM

  • Women protesting in March 2014, days after Wilders made the "fewer, fewer" comment (Photo: Alex Proimos)

Judges have refused a series of requests from defence lawyers at the trial of anti-EU Dutch politician Geert Wilders, including an attempt to call prime minister Mark Rutte to testify.

The court also denied a request to replace a judge accused by Wilders of being partisan and rejected an attempt to have the trial suspended after defence documents were leaked.

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  • Wilders: "PVV haters in this fake court apparently already have their verdict" (Photo: Metropolico.org)

Wilders is on trial for comments he made in March 2014, when he asked a crowd if they wanted “more or fewer Moroccans” in their country. After the crowd cheered “fewer, fewer”, he responded: “Then we will arrange that.”

He has been charged with insulting a group based on race, inciting hatred and a more general offence of discrimination.

The case is likely to focus on two core European values: Wilders will claim he was exercising free speech, prosecutors will argue that he is guilty of discrimination.

But even before the trial began last month, Wilders had already said the case was “political”.

On the first day in court, Wilders asked one of the three judges to leave. He thought she could not give an impartial judgment because she had publicly criticised the outcome of a previous criminal case against Wilders.

He was cleared of all charges in that case in 2011.

Wilders' lawyer had also asked the court to suspend the trial, after a newspaper published information from leaked documents from the defence.

“Apparently someone has gained access to these documents,” said defence lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops in March, noting that Wilders could not be guaranteed a fair trial if he could not communicate with his lawyer in confidence.

But the court disagreed.

“The defence is in no way curtailed,” said Judge Hendrik Steenhuis, who also refused to order an investigation into the leak.

He noted that such an inquiry could be done by the defence itself, and added that the law firm could report the breach to the police.

According to the leak, Wilders' defence wanted to question Mark Rutte, several ministers and Dutch EU commissioner Frans Timmermans. But judge Steenhuis said the court did not need to hear from them.

“It is our job to judge the statements,” he said, noting that what Wilders said in 2014 was not disputed by either side.

Steenhuis did honour one request from the defence, by allowing the hearing of an extra 20 people whom it wanted to call for testimony.

Wilders himself was not present in the court room on Thursday. He was in The Hague in a parliament debate about the Brussels terror attacks.

In a statement sent via Twitter, his main medium for communicating to the press and public, Wilders repeated that he was not getting a fair trial.

"PVV haters in this fake court apparently already have their verdict," he wrote, using the initials for his Party of Freedom.

The next session will be on 26 May.

Agenda

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Busy week ahead in Brussels with five council meetings, a Eurogroup and the European Parliament's plenary on the agenda .

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.

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Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

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