Wilders convicted for insulting Moroccans
By Peter Teffer
Dutch anti-EU politician Geert Wilders has been convicted by a Dutch court on Friday (9 December) for insulting a group and inciting discrimination, for remarks he made about Moroccans in 2014.
The court said it was “legally and convincingly proven” that Wilders had insulted Moroccans as a group when he rhetorically asked a crowd if there should be “fewer Moroccans” in the country.
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However, the court did not impose a fine or jail sentence.
Wilders was acquitted from the charge of inciting to hatred.
“This is not a political trial,” the judge said, adding that the personal opinions of the members of the court played no role in the verdict.
He noted that a democratic society should have room for remarks that “shock”, but that freedom of speech is not unlimited.
Those limits also apply to MPs, the judge said.
“Democratically elected politicians like Wilders are not above the law.”
Mere minutes after the verdict was announced, Wilders' defence lawyer announced he would appeal.
Wilders was not present during the ruling. In a tweet, Wilders called the verdict "completely crazy", said the judges "hated" his political party and that "half the Netherlands" had been convicted with him.
The judge also said statements Wilders made via his Twitter account, denouncing the court as biased, were “unworthy of an elected politician”.
'Fewer, fewer' Moroccans
Wilders was before the court case after public statements he made in the run-up to local elections in March 2014.
Talking to a tv reporter, he said that if his party were in charge of The Hague, the city would have “if at all possible, fewer Moroccans.”
On the night of the elections, a week later, Wilders asked supporters whether they wanted “less Europe” and if they wanted “fewer Moroccans."
The crowd chanted “fewer, fewer”, following which Wilders said: “Then we will arrange that.”
The public prosecutor had previously demanded Wilders pay a €5,000 fine for “insulting Moroccans as a group and inciting hatred of and discrimination against Moroccans”.
Ahead of the verdict, Wilders had said the verdict “whether acquittal or conviction, will not change anything de facto”, and that he would continue to speak his mind.
Several political analysts had pointed out, ahead of Friday's ruling, that both outcomes would be a political win for Wilders.
Having lost the case, he can now play the role of the victim who is being silenced by the establishment. Wilders, throughout the case had dubbed it a “political trial” and said the judges were biased against him.
Had he won the case, he would be able to prove he was right all along.
In any case, Wilders is expected to do well in the upcoming national elections in the Netherlands, on 15 March 2017.
His party has been leading in most polls for weeks and has consistently been doing well since the migration crisis broke out in September 2015.
Wilders also profits from a general anti-establishment feeling in the Netherlands.
Earlier this year, he campaigned against an EU-Ukraine treaty, and correctly predicted to EUobserver that “the chances are very big that a majority of the people will vote No in this referendum”.
Wilders' virtual success in the polls contrasts sharply to his party's parliamentary representation since he withdrew his support from a minority government in 2012.
His party has only 12 of 150 seats in the Lower House, after having lost three dissident MPs. Two of them had left after the “fewer Moroccans” speech.
While polls may have lost some credibility after failing to predict Brexit or the outcome of the US election, it is widely expected that Wilders' party will come out victorious in next year's elections.