Prosecutor, anti-Islamist Wilders clash in hate speech appeal
The Public Prosecutor and PVV leader Geert Wilders clashed hard in an appeal hearing on the hate speech trial against Wilders on Wednesday. Wilders said the advocates general on his case should be ashamed of how they damaged citizens' trust in the system. Advocate general Gerard Sta accused Wilders of an "undisguised attack" on the Public Prosecution Service (OM), NU.nl re ports.
On Wednesday, the OM said that documents published by Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security earlier this week showed that there was no political influence in the decision to prosecute Wilders for statements he made about Moroccans while campaigning in The Hague in 2014. The results of an investigation within the Ministry showed that politicians did not push the OM to prosecute the PVV leader, the OM said.
Wilders responded to the statement, saying that "the shamelessness of the advocates general in this case knows no bounds". "They claim a day and a half after the documents were made public that nothing was going on," the politician said. "I have rarely seen two advocates general who are so damaging to the public's trust in the Public Prosecution Service." He accused them of being "blinded by hatred against me and the PVV". "Shame on you," he said.
Wilders is convinced that there was political interference in the decision to prosecute him. According to him, this is evident from previously submitted documents as well as the documents released on Monday.
Attorney general Sta responded with "anger and incredible astonishment" to Wilders' accusations. "These are words that I don't hear often in court and they are completely inaccurate," he said. "I can imagine that there is discontent and surprise with Mr. Wilders and that can be discussed." He is aware that the politician doesn't agree with the OM's position. "But this is really going too far - beyond all limits."
"We have given account to the best of my knowledge and conscience and it really does not fit to state that we are telling lies. I think those words cannot be allowed, they simply cannot. Or he must prove it," Sta said.
Wilders' lawyers said that they have not yet been able to review the documents released on Monday. The court gave them until the next hearing, scheduled for March 23rd, to do so. There are also four hearings scheduled for April. When a ruling will be made in this long running case, is not clear.
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.
In December 2016, Wilders was found guilty of insulting a group of people and inciting discrimination, though the court imposed no 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.