Prosecutors deny minister's interference in Wilders hate speech charges

As the appeal in the hate speech case against PVV leader Geert Wilders continued in the high security court at Schiphol on Tuesday, his lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops demanded that the case be declared inadmissible due to political interference in the decision to prosecute, NOS reports. The prosecutor denied that any interference occurred, and pressed for the case to move forward as scheduled.

According to Wilders' defense, documents brought out by RTL Nieuws show that former Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten interfered with the Public Prosecutor's decision to prosecute Wilders. There were consultations between Opstelten, his officials and the Prosecutor even before the decision to prosecute was made, the lawyer said.

According to Knoops, the Minister and his officials "actively cooperated in setting up and designing the criminal case" against his client. The lawyer spoke of a "legal battlefield" and "irrefutable evidence". The court of appeal can do nothing else but to drop this case, he said.

Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security denies that his predecessor interfered in the decision to prosecute Wilders. On Tuesday morning, while the trial was in progress, he submitted answers to parliamentary questions by Wilders on this matter. 

According to Grapperhaus, there was no political influence on the Public Prosecution Service. When there were meetings between Opstelten, his staff and the Prosecutor, the decision to prosecute Wilders had already been made, Grapperhaus said. And these conversations were only about practical matters, such as when Wilders' prosecution would be announced, the planning and any security aspects, the Minister said. And a "legal analysis" of the decision to prosecute was made during the consultations.

The Tuesday hearing was gaveled to a close. A ruling on the Defendant's new concerns will be delivered on Thursday.

Wilders is on trial for statements he made about Moroccans while campaigning in The Hague in 2014. He asked a cafe full of people whether they want "more or fewer Moroccans in this city and the Netherlands". The audience responded by chanting "fewer, fewer, fewer". And Wilders said: "Well, then we will arrange that." He also said that The Hague should be a city with fewer problems and, if possible, fewer Moroccans.

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 again demanded a 5 thousand euro fine against the PVV leader in the appeal.