Dutch politician skips trial over hate speech

Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders repeated his criticism of Moroccans in a statement read in court.
Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders repeated his criticism of Moroccans in a statement read in court.

AMSTERDAM • Dutch anti-Islam opposition leader Geert Wilders boycotted the start of his trial on charges of hate speech and discrimination, and sent in a statement repeating his criticism of Moroccans.

The Freedom Party leader, who has dismissed the proceedings as politically motivated, has been charged over his appearance at an election rally in 2014, when he was filmed leading chants for fewer Moroccans in the country and calling them scum.

"I haven't said anything wrong," said the statement from Wilders, whose party has attracted rising support in the build-up to March parliamentary elections.

"It is my right and my duty as a politician to speak about the problems in our country. Because the Netherlands has a mega Moroccan problem," he added in the statement read by one of his lawyers in court yesterday.

Wilders could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to €7,400 (S$11,300) if convicted of discrimination and inciting hatred of Moroccans - charges he denies.

Prosecutor Sabina van der Kallen told the court there was nothing political about the trial, saying her office was "purely driven by upholding the criminal laws established by our democracy".

A verdict is due next month, three months before elections in which Wilders is hoping to unseat Prime Minister Mark Rutte's conservative VVD party, which rules in a fragile coalition with Labour.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2016, with the headline 'Dutch politician skips trial over hate speech'. Print Edition | Subscribe