Wilders again questions judge's neutrality in hate speech trial appeal

PVV leader Geert Wilders expressed his doubts about the neutrality of judge Jeanne Gaakeer, the president of the court of law in The Hague, who is handling the appeal of the hate speech trial against him. According to Wilders, Gaakeer is chairman of a foundation that previously awarded a prize to Sinead Wendt, a left-wing activist involved in anti-Wilders protests. "Are you the right person to judge me?" Wilders asked during a pro-forma hearing in the high security court at Schiphol on Tuesday.

Wilders surprised the court with this information. According to him, he only received this info during a recess in the hearing, otherwise his lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops would have addressed it sooner. 

The PVV leader told the court that activist Wendt has completely different political ideals than he does. According to Wilders, the activist is active in the squatting world, organized an anti-Trump demonstration and was also involved in demonstrations against Wilders himself. The Gascaria Foundation, which judge Gaakeer is chairman of, gave Wendt an award in 2016 for a thesis on undocumented migrants called 'No More Blablabla", Wilders said. The motivation for the award said: "Her work is not only of a high academic quality, it also demonstrates personal engagement with this group of people". 

Wilders said that he hopes this information is not true. If it is correct, he wants Gaakeer to step down as judge in this case. 

The Public Prosecutor was surprised by Wilders' allegations. The Prosecutor wanted to know how "more surprises" Wilders has up his sleeve.

This case revolves around statements Wilders made while campaigning in The Hague in 2014. He said that The Hague should be a city with fewer problems, and "if possible, fewer Moroccans". He also asked a cafe full of people whether they want more or fewer Moroccans in The Hague, to which his followers responded by chanting "fewer, fewer, fewer". Wilders then said he would arrange that. On December 9th last year Wilders was convicted of insulting a group of people and inciting discrimination. The court decided not to impose a punishment on him. Both Wilders and the Public Prosecutor appealed. 

On Tuesday Wilders' lawyer Knoops announced a number of investigations he wants to have done for the appeal. Knoops also wants to question Prime Minister Mark Rutte and a number of Ministers and former Ministers in the Rutte II cabinet as witnesses. These include Ronald Plasterk, Ivo Opstelten, Frans Timmermans and Lodewijk Asscher, NOS reports. According to the lawyer, there are indications that Wilders' prosecution was ordered from above and he wants to know from the Ministers whether they made agreements on that.

That Wilders became a ball of political power can also be seen in a leaked note by former VVD member Joost Taverne, Knoops said in court. The note showed that Taverne disagreed with Wilders being convicted by the court, but that he was ordered to keep his mouth shut in order not to show any support for Wilders. Knoops wants Taverne to testify about this.

Another pro-forma hearing is scheduled for Thursday. The substantive appeal trial will start in May next year, only after the municipal elections in March.