Wilders' political stances have nothing to do with hate-speech trial, Prosecutor says
The political viewpoints of Geert Wilders and his party PVV played no role in the decision to prosecute Wilders for statements he made about Moroccans, the Public Prosecutor again stressed on Friday at the start of the appeal in the hate-speech case against the PVV leader. This is only about what he said, the Prosecutor said, NU.nl reports.
Wilders is on trial for statements he 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.
On December 9th, 2016, Wilders was found guilty of insulting a group of people and inciting discrimination. "Partly in view of the inflammatory nature and manner of these statements, 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. Both Wilders and the Prosecutor appealed.
According to Geert-Jan Knoops, the lawyer representing Wilders, the court of appeal will quickly conclude that the case against Wilders is invalid, because of political interference in the Public Prosecutor's decision to prosecute him. Knoops urged the court to further investigate the role former VVD Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten played in this decision. In 2014 Opstelten insisted that Wilders be prosecuted for his statements, the lawyer said. This violated the principle of the separation of powers and means that the PVV leader will not receive a fair trial, according to Knoops.
In a letter sent to parliament recently, current Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus revealed that Opstelten and Herman Bolhaar, then the chairman of the Attorney General's Office, discussed the charges pressed against Wilders at least once, on April 2nd, 2014. "Wilders - procedure discussed - 1000 declarations", can be read in a short note following a regular periodic consultation between Bolhaar and Opstelten. These regular consultations continued, but whether Wilders was again discussed is not clear. "No report is made of these consultations." According to Grapperhuas, there are no indications that Opstelten ordered or asked the Prosecutor to prosecute the PVV leader.
Knoops wants Opstelten, Bolhaar and former senior official Gerard Roes to testify about this under oath.