Lawyers struggle to get payment in Wilders hate speech trial
The lawyers assisting the claimants in the appeal of the hate speech against PVV leader Geert Wilders, are struggling to get compensation for their work from the Legal Assistance Board. One of the lawyers asked that the appeal, set to start at the end of October, be postponed until the matter is sorted out, AD reports.
Last year Geert Wilders was found guilty of inciting discrimination and insulting a population group, but was not given a punishment. The trial revolved around statements he made about Moroccans while campaigning in the Hague in March 2014. On March 12th of that year he said that The Hague should be a city with "fewer burdens and if possible also fewer Moroccans". And a few days later he rhetorically asked a cafe full of people whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans, to which they chanted "fewer, fewer, fewer". Both Wilders and the 35 people who filed discrimination charges against him, appealed. The claimants want compensation from Wilders, the PVV leader wants to be acquitted.
The Legal Assistance Board is refusing to compensate the lawyers of the 35 claimants for the work they put into this trial. "I've already put many hours into this case, but I haven't seen a cent yet", Goran Sluiter, who is assisting eight of the claimants, said to AD. He doesn't understand why the board is refusing to pay them. "The people in question absolutely need a lawyer, because it's a complicated legal case. Moreover, they do not want to speak in court, because of the massive media attention. But without legal aid, they can't pay a lawyer. And I can't work without compensation."
The lawyers in this case are supported by the Public Prosecutor, which advised the claimants to hire a lawyer. But according to the Board, the claimants against Wilders do not need a lawyer, strictly speaking. "Although this case is getting a lot of media attention, it is a relatively light offense. And the claim of the victims is relatively simple. Therefore, we do not find legal aid necessary."
Sluiter already appealed against the Board's decision, and the court ruled in his favor. But the Legal Assistance Council appealed to the Council of State. This appeal is expected to be handled only next year. "And as long as that has not happened, I want to delay the case, because otherwise no effective legal aid can be granted", Sluiter said to the newspaper.
Neither the Court or Wilders' lawyer were available to comment.