Appeal in Wilders hate speech trial starts

Geert Wilders surrounded by bodyguards, Spijkenesse Feb 2017
Geert Wilders surrounded by bodyguards, Spijkenesse Feb 2017Photo: Peter van der Sluijs / Wikimedia Commons

The appeal in the hate speech trial against PVV leader Geert Wilders starts in the high security court at Schiphol on Tuesday. The trial revolves around statements Wilders made about wanting fewer Moroccans in The Hague while campaigning in 2014. In December last year, Wilders was found guilty of hate speech, but not given a punishment. Both Wilders and the Public Prosecutor appealed.

The court booked two days this week for the start of this appeal, according to broadcaster NOS. This week's sessions will be so-called pro-forma hearings. Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops and the Public Prosecutor will have the chance to explain exactly which points in the initial ruling they disagree with. They can also indicate which investigation requirements they have. The expectation is that Knoops will ask for experts to be heard as witnesses, according to the broadcaster.

The case revolves around statements Wilders made about Moroccans while campaigning in the Hague in 2014. Wilders said that The Hague should be a city with fewer problems and, if possible, fewer Moroccans. The PVV leader also asked a cafe full of his followers whether they want more or fewer Moroccans in The Hague and the Netherlands, to which they responded by chanting "fewer, fewer, fewer". Wilders then said he would arrange that. 

The court considered this a punishable offense. On December 9th last year, Wilders was found guilty of insulting a group of people and inciting discrimination. "Partly in view of the inflammatory nature and manner of these stamens, others were hereby incited to discriminate against persons of Moroccan origin", the court ruled. The court did not give him any form of punishment, saying that the verdict is punishment enough. The Public Prosecutor demanded a 5 thousand euro fine.

Wilders immediately appealed against the ruling. "Moroccans are not a race and people who say something about Moroccans are not racist. I'm not racist and neither are my voters", he said in a first reaction to the ruling.

The Public Prosecutor was pleased that Wilders was convicted, but appealed against the decision not to punish him.