Fmr. Justice Min. can be called to testify in Wilders hate speech trial

The appeal in the hate speech case against PVV leader Geert Wilders will continue. The court in The Hague saw no reason to declare the Public Prosecutor inadmissible, as Wilders had requested. The court will, however, allow the defense to call former Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten, former head of the Public Prosecution Service Herman Bolhaar and a number of senior officials to testify as witnesses, NOS reports.

According to Wilders, Opstelten personally interfered with the Public Prosecutor's decision to prosecute him.

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.   

The prosecutor who decided not to prosecute former D66 leader Alexander Pechtold for statements he made about Russians, can also be called as a witness, the court said. Early last year, after it was revealed that then Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra had lied about being at a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Pechtold said: "I still have to meet the first Russian who corrects his mistakes himself." Seven people filed charges against Pechtold for this statement, but the Public Prosecutor decided he was not guilty of group insult.

The witnesses in the Wilders hate speech trial will testify behind closed doors, according to NOS.

Wilders said that he is very disappointed that the court did not decide to drop this case. "For a threefold murder, the judge sets three days aside. But if you say three words, you're on trail for five years. It is ridiculous that I have to stand here."

He added that he is pleased that the court took the possible interference of Opstelten in his case seriously and that the former Minister will be questioned, though he regrets that it is happening behind closed doors. "That is incomprehensible and a very big disadvantage for me as a suspect. But we will be able to make everything public."

Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops had also hoped the case would come to an end today. "But on the other hand: the case is now being more seriously looked at than the last time. We expect to be able to reveal with the announced investigations what exactly the political interference was."

The substantive treatment of the appeal will start on June 25th.