Dutch far-right populist lawmaker Geert Wilders is be tried for inciting “racial hatred” after pledging in March to ensure there were ‘fewer Moroccans’ in the Netherlands, prosecutors said Thursday.
‘The public prosecutor in The Hague is to prosecute Geert Wilders on charges of insulting a group of people based on race and incitement to discrimination and hatred,’ prosecutors said in a statement.
‘Politicians may go far in their statements, that’s part of freedom of expression, but this freedom is limited by the prohibition of discrimination,’ it said, adding that no date had yet been set for the trial.
The case centres on comments Wilders made at a March 19 rally after local elections.
He asked his followers whether they wanted ‘fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?’
When the crowd shouted ‘Fewer! Fewer!’ a smiling Wilders answered: ‘We’re going to organise that.’
In a later TV interview, he referred to ‘Moroccan scum’.
The remark led to 6,400 legal complaints being lodged across the Netherlands, and criticism was even voiced within Wilders’s own Party for Freedom.
In a written statement, Wilders says he ‘said what millions of people think and believe.’
Wilders says authorities ‘should concentrate on prosecuting jihadis instead of me.’
‘I do not retract anything I have said,’ Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) is leading opinion polls.
‘In my fight for freedom and against the Islamization of the Netherlands, I will never let anyone silence me. No matter the cost, no matter by whom, whatever the consequences may be,’ he said.
Wilders is often reviled in Dutch immigrant communities for his fiery anti-Islam rhetoric.
In the past the flamboyant politician has compared the Koran to Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ and has called Islam a fascist religion.
He has become the target of death threats and who lives under 24-hour police protection. He has said he expects prosecutors to drop the charges.
A court in 2011 acquitted Wilders on hate-speech charges, ruling that he had targeted a religion, which is permitted under Dutch freedom of speech laws, rather than a specific ethnic group.
The far-right is on the rise across Europe, fed by disillusionment with the multicultural establishment, economic hardship and worries over immigration.
In Sweden’s neighbour Denmark, the Danish People’s Party has seen its support soar on a platform of tight immigration, tougher punishment for criminals and more welfare spending, apparently on track to become the country’s biggest party.
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