Geert Wilders found guilty in hate speech trial; Court refuses to punish
Anti-Islam party leader Geert Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination and insulting a race of people during a campaign speech on March 19, 2014. In issuing its ruling, judges at the maximum security court near Schiphol Airport said the populist politician's rhetoric did not fall within his rights to free speech.
Wilders said he would file an appeal less than ten minutes after the court read its verdict. He continued his defense that Moroccans are not a race, and thus can not be subjected to racism based on their ethnic heritage.
At the election week rally, Wilders stoked the crowd, gaining cheers when he yelled out, "Do you want more or fewer Moroccans?" The crowd responded back, "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" To which Wilders replied, "We're going to make that happen!"
"An insulting remark statement, with the greatest possible impact," the court ruling stated. In the months that followed, there was a significant rise in hate crime reports in the Hague.
He explicitly targeted a minority group in the Netherlands, the verdict said.
The court determined that prior to that night, Wilders' comments about people with Moroccan heritage were more focused on those who engaged in criminal behavior. However, in the 2014 speech, he made a point to single out the entire cultural group, regardless of their standing in society, and specifically derogated them and dismissed them, the court said.
"Three PVV hating judges declare that Moroccans are a race and convict me and half of the Netherlands. Madness," Wilders said on Twitter after the hearing concluded. He later made a statement in a video which he used to call the Netherlands a sick country, complain that judges and journalists were out of touch, and saying the court was powerless to stop him
In its ruling, the court went out of its way to say the judiciary's personal opinion of Wilders is irrelevant, saying it is not a political hearing. They noted that democratically elected politicians are also subject to the laws of the Netherlands. "The law also applies to him," the verdict stated.
They further denounced Wilders' assertion that this was a "fake court", as Wilders stated on Twitter. At the end of the trial, Wilders called the process "absurd," and denounced the court's authority.
The prosecution had called for a guilty verdict, and a five thousand euro fine with no prison time. Despite the lack of a fine, the prosecution said it was happy with the ruling, according to a reporter for AD.
"The standard is maintained that there is a limit to freedom of expression," the court spokesperson said.
Geert Wilders' PVV party currently leads all other political groups in support, according to a recent poll conducted in the Netherlands.
Three PVV hating judges declare that Moroccans are a race and convict me and half of the Netherlands.— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) December 9, 2016