Today was the second day of the trial against populist anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders accused of inciting discrimination and hatred. This is based upon a comment he made at a rally during the local elections in 2014 when he asked the crowd if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans and the crowd shouted (as was organised): ‘Fewer, fewer’. We will arrange that, Wilders replied. For the basics see HERE.
Free speech / racism?
This second day was reserved mostly for Paul Cliteur, a political philosopher and law professor of Leiden University, who was called as an expert witness for the defense. Cliteur was adamant in defending Wilders in the sense that he thought it was nonsense that politicians have greater responsibility for their words than ordinary citizens. According to him, politicians should in fact have greater freedom of expression.
For Cliteur the trial is a political process whereby the verdict will have a far reaching consequences for the political climate at home and abroad:’If you ask me whether this case is a political process that may have far-reaching consequences, not only in the Netherlands but the whole world, I would say so.’
“Wilders’s viewpoints… are particularly radical in his criticism against Islam,” Cliteur told the the three judges. He tried to refute the claim that Wilders’ remarks constituted racial discrimination. They were “rather aimed at halting immigration based on nationality”, and “He may just as well have asked ‘Do you want fewer Americans or fewer Malaysians’, — the effect is the same.”
Request for recusal
In the afternoon defense lawyer Knoops interrupted the proceedings when a lawyer of one of the plaintiffs was reading the complaints that been filed. The defense lawyer questioned the impartiality of one of the judges, Eliane van Rens and wanted her to be replaced: ‘We’ve come to the conclusion that the judge has not conducted the questioning in an impartial manner.’
Knoops referred to the questions asked by Van Rens to Cliteur about tolerance which may have suggested that the question of tolerance was crucial in a recent verdict on hate speech while it was only one of the factors and rather ill-defined. Wilders, who is not attending the proceedings, tweeted: “What terrible bias from this judge who can barely disguise her hate for the Freedom Party.”
In 2010/2011 during the first trial, and was acquitted, Wilders made two such requests. The first was rejected but the second led to the replacement of the entire three-judge panel hearing his case, causing a significant delay in the process. On Friday the court will hear the request for a recusal.
Grievances and compensation
Until then the lawer of the plaintiffs was heard about the grievances of four groups and eight individuals. “One man said he became depressed, could not sleep and did not feel a valued member of Dutch society any more,” according to lawer Goran Sluiter. He also demanded compensation.