Witness scared to testify in nationalist politician's hate-speech trial, lawyer says

A former civil servant who was going to testify in the hate speech trial against PVV leader Geert Wilders, decided to not testify after all, according to Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops. The man is afraid that he will be prosecuted by the Public Prosecution Service, the lawyer said to AD. 

According to Knoops, the witness was employed by the Ministry of Security and Justice in 2011. He then overheard a conversation between then Minister Ivo Opstelten and the secretary general of the ministry at the time, Joris Demmink. According to the witness, Opstelten explicitly said that the Public Prosecution Service must prosecute Wilders "because he is too much in our way". 

The official went to Wilders with the story and recorded it in a statement at a notary's office. The plan was that he would testify before the court behind closed doors, but according to Knoops he no longer wants to. This has to do with the fact that the Public Prosecution Service recently launched an investigation into sources in another case - sources who told Nieuwsuur about abuses in the Ministry of Justice and Security's scientific office WODC. Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus said that he would not look for the sources, but that did not stop the Prosecutor from starting an investigation, according to AD.

"That naturally also gives a great sense of insecurity to this witness", Knoops said to the newspaper. As a result, the anonymously given testimony may be useless, because the Public Prosecutor will not be able to question the witness to establish whether he's telling the truth. The Court of Appeal will have to decide how to proceed, Knoops said

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.   

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