MPs clash with Wilders over terrorism accusations
PVV leader Geert Wilders clashed with multiple parties in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, including about VVD adviser Soumaya Sahla and a tweet in which he suggested that Dilan Yeşilgöz's appointment as Justice Minister will jeopardize his security.
Soumaya Sahla was arrested in 2005 for involvement in the terrorist Hofstad Group and later sentenced to three years in prison. She is now committed to combatting radicalization. The debate became increasingly heated when Wilders involved D66 parliamentarian Fonda Sahla. She is Soumaya's sister. According to the PVV leader, the D66 MP gives her sister access to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. "Then there's a convicted terrorist walking around." Fonda Sahla also wears a headscarf in the Kamer, something Wilders has been campaigning against for some time.
Several parties thought Wilders' statements went too far. VVD faction leader Sophie Hermans stressed that Soumaya Sahla does not work for the VVD faction and therefore does not have access to the Tweede Kamer. She also wants to "throw the accusations far from me. We have to judge everyone on the contribution to the debate."
GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver criticized Wilders for bringing D66 MP Salha into the discussion because she is Soumaya's sister. He recalled that Wilders was previously "rightly furious" when his brother was involved in the debate. "But now he does the same thing." He called on Wilders to take back his words, but Wilders refused. "I'm not taking anything back, crazy," Wilders snapped at him.
Wilders has been hacking away at democratic legal order for years with many of his statements, Klaver said. "And to be honest: we have been much too soft on that," he said, asking the Kamer President to intervene when Wilders goes too far. According to Klaver, Wilders often crosses the line, and his statements contribute to the popularity of conspiracy theories and threats against journalists and politicians. "We allowed it to be said in this hall," Klaver said. "It does not fit anywhere. Not in society, and certainly not in parliament."
Klaver received support from CDA chairman Pieter Heerma. "I don't think anyone can avoid the impression that accusing someone by name here in the hall is often followed by the report that they need personal security." Minister and D66 leader Sigrid Kaag has "experienced firsthand how threatening the consequences of words can be," he said, referring to a man standing in front of her house with a burning torch and shouting conspiracy slogans at her.
Heerma feels that there is a connection between some politicians' statements in the debate and the others' security situation. He asked Kamer President Vera Bergkamp and the board of the Tweede Kamer to investigate this. If the feeling is right, then "the way the debate is conducted is part of what is smothering the debate," said Heerma. Then the Kamer president can intervene, he said.
Bergkamp reprimanded Wilders because Sahla did not participate in the debate and could not defend herself against his allegations. Bergkamp also finds the comments about the D66 parliamentarian's headscarf "disrespectful." Wilders refused to take back his words.
The coalition parties also attacked Wilders over a tweet in which he suggested that his security may be jeopardized by the appointment of VVD member Dilan Yeşilgöz as Justice Minister.
D66 chairman Jan Paternotte addressed Wilders about the tweet immediately after his first sentence in the debate. "I had hoped that Mr. Wilders would start with an apology, but he starts with a different story." Paternotte called it a "completely nonsensical, idiotic suggestion" that Wilders made in his tweet. Wilders wrote that Yeşilgöz, "a VVD member of Turkish descent," might lift his security and hope he "disappears under the grass."
VVD faction leader Herman wants to know why Wilders did not respond to calls and messages from Yeşilgöz when she approached him to discuss the matter. "Why have the nerve to send such a reprehensible tweet but not to call back?" Wilders said he did not consider it necessary to call back because Yeşilgöz was still State Secretary of Climate at the time.
CDA chairman Heerma called this an "excuse." Wilders "feels that his main story is not going anywhere," Heerma said. He finds it particularly reprehensible that the opposition leader pointed to the VVD as a party that does not want to protect him. Wilders thus suggests "that a political party in the Kamer wants him killed," Heerma said. "That says more about Mr. Wilders than about the Cabinet."
Wilders has since had contact with Yeşilgöz. They will talk about the matter this week. Wilders doesn't think it will be a "nice conversation, but I'm going anyway."
Reporting by ANP and NL Times