Dutch anti-Islam MP Wilders faces trial for hate speech

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SHAFAQNA – Wilders, 53, is to appear before a three-judge bench on charges of insulting a racial group and inciting racial hatred after comments he made about Moroccans living in The Netherlands.

All eyes will be on the fortress-like court building near Amsterdam s Schiphol airport to see how the trial impacts Wilders fortunes in the run-up to the March 15 polls.

Set to last until November 25, the trial focuses on a comment made at a March 2014 local government election rally, when the platinum-haired politician 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 answered: “We re going to organize that.”

It is the second such trial for Wilders who was acquitted on similar charges in 2011.

His 2014 statements were met with outrage including from the small, but vocal Dutch Muslim community. An avalanche of 6,400 complaints followed.

They were also condemned in the Dutch parliament with parties shunning any cooperation with Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV) despite its rising popularity, particularly among conservative Dutch voters.

Judges earlier this month dismissed arguments by Wilders lawyers that the trial was “politically motivated” and added they did not believe it will impact the PVV s election campaign.

Defence lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops had said Wilders was merely putting forward the PVV s political program, which he had the right to do under freedom of speech.

But Knoops argument was squarely rejected as the judges sent the case to trial.

Politicians “are granted broad freedoms of expression because of their official position,” the judges ruled after preliminary hearings in September.

“Precisely therefore politicians have an important role to avoid feeding intolerance by making these kind of public statements.”

Wilders however refuses to retract his comments and has repeatedly said he was “merely saying what millions of others think” in The Netherlands.

“I have no regrets,” he added defiantly.

In an early victory, Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday declined to pursue 40 claims for compensation by Moroccans against Wilders.

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