Hate speech appeal against Wilders to continue as planned

Geert Wilders surrounded by bodyguards, Spijkenesse Feb 2017
Geert Wilders surrounded by bodyguards, Spijkenesse Feb 2017Photo: Peter van der Sluijs / Wikimedia Commons

The appeal in the hate speech trial against PVV leader Geert Wilders will continue as planned, The Hague court of appeal said on Thursday. The court will not decide whether the Public Prosecution Service was justified in prosecuting the PVV leader and whether there was political interference in the decision until the final ruling in the hate speech case, the court said, NU.nl reports.

Wilders' lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops asked that the court declare the case inadmissible. According to the lawyer, there was clearly political interference in the decision to prosecute his client and that is a violation of the separation of powers. 

The Public Prosecutor maintains that the decision to prosecute Wilders was made independently on September 10th, 2014. But according to Knoops, documents obtained by RTL Nieuws show that the decision had not yet been made on 16 September 2014, and that the Public Prosecution Service discussed the prosecution with former Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and his officials before the decision was made. Internal emails also indicate that Ministry officials interfered with the strategy to be pursued during the criminal case, according to the lawyer. 

The court of appeal has seen this communication, but it is too early to make a definitive judgment, the court said. "Further investigation is needed", the judge said. "That investigation must have a place in the hearing, among other things. The defense's argument also plays an important role in this."

The defense asked the court for time to deliberate. The case is on break until 10:30 a.m. 

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.