Dutch politician Geert Wilders faces new racial hatred charges over victory speech

The Party for Freedom leader asked cheering supporters: 'Do you want more or fewer Moroccans here?'

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The Independent Online

A xenophobic victory speech in The Hague will send the populist Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, back to the dock for a second time, with authorities in The Netherlands announcing today that they will prosecute him for alleged discrimination and inciting racial hatred.

Mr Wilders is known for his bottle-blond hairstyle and his headline-grabbing rhetoric criticising immigration and Islam, and in 2010-2011 he stood trial on the same racial hatred charges after calling for a ban on the Koran and comparing the Muslim text to Mein Kampf. He was acquitted after a judge decided his statements were directed at a religion rather than a group, but this time Dutch prosecutors believe they have a stronger case as he targeted a specific ethnic group.

The incident happened in March, after Mr Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) boosted its showing in local elections. Taking to the stage in The Hague, Mr Wilders asked his cheering supporters: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?” The response: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”. “We’ll take care of that,” their leader replied.

The remarks provoked outcry, with people in The Netherlands taking to the streets to show solidarity with the Moroccan community. More than 6,400 people filed complaints to the Dutch police, and after spending months considering the case, the prosecutor’s office today issued a statement saying Mr Wilders will face charges of “insulting a specific group based on race and inciting discrimination and hatred”. “Politicians can go far in what they say, that is part of freedom of speech, but the freedom is limited by the ban on discrimination,” the statement said.

Mr Wilders was typically bullish, insisting he was only saying “what millions of people think”.

“It is a travesty that I have to defend myself in court for this. The Public Prosecutor would do better to devote his time to prosecuting jihadis instead of me.”

Some analysts have questioned whether such legal cases are effective tools for curbing anti-immigrant sentiment, or simply fuel support for the populists among some segments of society.

“He’ll get lots of media attention, and will be able to portray himself as a ‘martyr’ for free speech, causing people to feel sympathy for him that would not normally support his cause or ideas,” Jogchum Vrielink, a legal scholar from the University of Leuven in Belgium, told The Independent