Wilders and the ‘fewer Moroccans’ trial – part 0

Wilders wants fewer Moroccans

In 2014 at a rally after municipal elections in the Netherlands the radical anti-Islam politician Wilders asked his party supporters:

“Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?”

The crowd chanted:

“Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!”,

to which Wilders responded:

“We’ll take care of that.”

A week earlier he stated:

Most important are the people here on the market, the Hagenaars, Hagenezen and Scheveningers. We are doing it for those people. They are voting for a safer and more social city with fewer problems and, if possible also fewer Moroccans.

The comments provoked wide-spread condemnation in the Netherlands and abroad. Thousand of people filed complaints of discrimination with the Dutch prosecutors with several mosque organizations playing an active role in recruiting people to file a complaint. On Twitter there was a campaign #BornHere and a facebook page was launched “I’m filing a complaint against Wilders”. According to Boutaina Azzabi, the founder of the page:

We also want to make a statement against racism in general. We want the Netherlands to be tolerant again

In December 2014 the public prosecutor announced to take anti-Islam party leader Geert Wilders to court for discrimination and inciting hatred based upon the remarks mentioned here: “Politicians can go far in what they say, that is part of freedom of speech. But the freedom is limited by the ban on discrimination”, according to the Public Prosecutor.

2010/2011 trial
In February 2011 the retrial of Geert Wilders started after the judges in the first trial in 2010 were removed because of a perceived bias against Wilders. The leader of the populist and nativist anti-Islam party was charged in 2009 with five counts after anti-racism organisations, organisations of Turkish, Moroccan and Antillean people in the Netherlands, mosques and an umbrella organisation of mosques filed complaints against him:

  1. Group insult;
  2. Inciting hatred against Muslims because of their religion;
  3. Inciting discrimination against Muslims because of their religion;
  4. Inciting hatred against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race;
  5. Inciting discrimination against non-western immigrants and Moroccans because of their race.

The public prosecutor was forced by the court to go to trial after an initial refusal to do so in 2010 and sought acquittal on all charges. Through his lawyer Wilders argued that he had only criticised Islam and not its adherents, and that the charge of insulting Muslims as a group should not stand. He stated he was fighting to preserve ‘our’ culture, according to him based on Christianity, Judaism and Humanism and threatened by Islamisation and politicians that look the other way. Both in the first and second trial, the prosecutor argued that Wilders should be acquitted on all counts. In June 2011, Wilders was acquitted of all charges. According to the court, although Wilders’ statement were “gross and denigrating,” and on the edge of legal tolerability, they had not given rise to hatred against Muslims, and as such were “acceptable within the context of public debate.” According to Wilders but also many of his supporters ánd critics freedom of speech had been at trial in this case. He declared the acquittal was not only a victory for himself but also for freedom of expression in the Netherlands.

New trial
Yesterday was a pre-trial review. According to the public prosecutor:

Pre-trial review in criminal case against Geert Wilders – Openbaar Ministerie

two fundamental rights are touching eachother in this case: freedom of speech and the prohibition on discrimination. The Public Prosecution Service will not adopt a position on whether Geert Wilders in fact violated the law until the substance of the case is tried. This is scheduled as from 31 October 2016.

[…]

The Public Prosecution Service has opted for including various “forms of participation in a criminal act” in the indictment. This relates to the interaction between Geert Wilders and the public on 19 March 2014. The interaction can be assessed differently from a legal point of view. For this reason, the Public Prosecution Service included all possible forms of participation in a criminal act in the indictment.
[…]
At the pre-trial review today, the public prosecutor also elaborated on the question whether the statements of Geert Wilders had been planned previously. Regarding his statement on March 12, 2014 several witnesses have declared that this was not known to them in advance and came as a surprise. In the view of the Public Prosecution Service his speech on March 19, 2014 was carefully thought through in advance. The audience was instructed beforehand by a staff member on the answers to be given to the questions that Geert Wilders would ask.

Yesterday Dutch newspaper AD announced it had obtained the legal brief of Wilders’ lawyer Knoops outlining his defense strategy. The leak will have consequences for the course of the trial:

A this time, any continuation of the criminal proceedings is a threat to the defense and privacy of Geert Wilders”, Knoops said. “It harms the defense, and we have no interest in that.

According to Knoops, this case is an attack on Wilders’ freedom of speech: the last freedom Wilders still has according to him. According to Knoops Wilders was speaking within the confines of the law and merely representing people in a political debate. Knoops also emphasized the importance of having several witnesses testify in this case. He wanted 39 witnesses but the court only approved six – not enough for his defense the lawyer feels. He wants an expert from abroad to testify about on the definition “intolerance” and what case law says about it. According to Knoops too few experts in the Netherlands are independent and a few other experts already withdrew themselves out of fear for their own safety and professional backlashes. Knoops also wants the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism Dick Schoof to testify. According to him he can explain who travels to Syria to join ISIS and how Dutch Moroccans are represented in terrorist and criminal organizations. This information contextualizes Wilders’ “fewer Moroccans” statements according to the lawyer.

The next pre-trial review in this case is on May 26, 2016. The substantive hearing is now scheduled as from October 31, 2016.

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