Wilders denounces latest court case as 'political trial'
By Peter Teffer
Dutch politician Geert Wilders is due to go on trial on Friday (18 March) charged with inciting hatred, discrimination and insulting a group based on race, a court case he has dismissed as a “political trial”.
He is being charged over comments he made at a campaign event in The Hague in March 2014, when he asked the audience if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country. The crowd chanted “Fewer! Fewer!” In response, Wilders said: “Then we will arrange that.”
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Earlier this month, Wilders told an event in Brussels organised by the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom, an alliance of eurosceptic far-right parties, that the trial was “meant to silence me”.
But the leader of the Dutch anti-immigration PVV party did not repeat his question about Moroccans.
Instead, he said: “If I had now asked the same about Syrians, I probably would have received the Nobel peace prize.”
He added that “pretty much all” government leaders were aiming for that now.
He was speaking at an event about freedom, which he said was being “threatened” by what he called the political elite.
He reminded the audience that his personal freedom has been restricted for more than 11 years. Wilders has been receiving protection since October 2004, when a video on a jihadist website threatened him with beheading. He has continued to receive death threats since.
Giving a glimpse of his personal motivation, Wilders rhetorically asked what the people that filed a complaint against him wanted to achieve.
“Do they think they can take away my freedom? Forget it. What freedom? The only freedom I have left is my freedom of speech, and I will never let that get taken from me. No judge will ever achieve that,” he said.
It is not the first time Wilders has been prosecuted – in 2011 he was cleared of all charges in a case in which he had been suspected of insulting a group, inciting hatred, and discrimination.
The latest trial comes as Wilders' party is doing very well in the polls.
Since the migration crisis kicked off in September 2015, the PVV has been almost consistently ahead of the other parties in surveys conducted by four different polling organisations.
In his speech, he announced that a "patriotic spring" was taking place in Europe and in the US.
"There is a political revolution happening. Of course, without violence, democratically, but it is scaring the heck out of the established order," Wilders said.
Success in the opinion polls is in sharp contrast to the decline in the party's fortunes in actual elections since it withdrew its support for a minority government in 2012.
Since then, Wilders' party received lower shares of the popular vote in national, regional, and European elections. It has also lost three of its 15 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament after disgruntled MPs left the party - two of them left because of his comment about Moroccans.
While it is still a year before national elections are scheduled, there is one other poll that the anti-EU politician will try to profit from.
In April, the Dutch will vote in a non-binding referendum on an EU-Ukraine association agreement.
“I think that the chances are very big that a majority of the people will vote No in this referendum,” Wilders told EUobserver after his speech in Brussels.
“An extra association agreement means more Europe.”
He added that the most important thing was to make sure that enough people show up on the referendum day to make the vote valid. Thirty percent of voters need to cast their ballots.
When asked if he would focus on his opposition to the EU-Ukraine treaty, or whether he would also play the anti-EU card in the referendum campaign, Wilders said the two were interchangeable.
“It is the same. It is a treaty of the European Union, which leads to more European Union. It is the European Union,” he said.
“Of course we are talking about the treaty, but it is a 100 percent also about the European Union and I will play both cards.”