Netherlands court orders new judges in the trial of Geert Wilders, who faces charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.
|Wilders is standing trial for inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims in his comments in the media [AFP]|
A string of scandals within the Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders has rocked the stability of the Netherlands’ new minority government.
The right-leaning minority coalition was formed last month after parliamentary elections in June in which the PVV increased its representation from nine to 24 members, making it the third largest party in the country.
James Sharpe, one of the PVV’s legislators, resigned on Thursday because of a row surrounding his criminal convictions, making him the seventh PPV member of parliament whose history has come under scrutiny from the Dutch media.
Sharpe resigned after the media reported that his Hungary-based internet dating company had been fined for misleading customers. The website of Sharpe’s company had tried to lure its users by featuring pictures of models that were not available for dating.
Sharpe, who was promptly replaced in parliament, denied any wrongdoing but “the evidence is all over the internet,” the Dutch newspaper nrc.next reported.
The incident was the latest in a wide range of scandals involving PVV politicians.
Media in Holland reported last week that Eric Lucassen, a former army instructor and PVV legislator, had been convicted of having sex with teenage soldiers under his command.
Lucassen concealed his criminal record during the vetting process for his candidacy. He also held back that he was fined for harassing his neighbours by urinating in one of his neighbours’ mailbox. The dispute revolved around the neighbour’s dog, which had allegedly defecated on Lucassen’s doorstep.
Before the scandal, Lucassen had been the PVV’s spokesman on neighbourhood issues.
Wilders apologised to voters and parliament because of the row, but refused to remove Lucassen from parliament.
“He will no longer speak on behalf of the PVV on defence or neighbourhood policy,” Wilders said.
Due to the PVV’s spectacular growth, the party had not carried out proper research into its candidates, Wilders said. The PVV leader said the disclosure of the incidents had not put the stability of the government at risk.
Five other PVV members of parliament have also come under media scrutiny for alleged dubious behaviour.
In 2006, Dion Graus allegedly tried to smother his highly pregnant wife after he had allegedly physically assaulted her. The charges were dropped due to lack of evidence.
Hero Brinkman, one of the party’s most outspoken politicians, came under media scrutiny after head-butting a waiter during a bar brawl.
In an unrelated incident earlier this year, Marcial Hernandez spent a night in jail after being arrested for his part in another bar fight. That case is still being investigated.
Jhim van Bemmel has been accused of bankruptcy fraud.
Richard de Mos lied on his CV, claiming to have been “head of a school” in a rough neighbourhood of The Hague, while he was in fact a teacher at a primary school. Asked about the allegations, De Mos said he had done a two-year course to become a school director and had all the necessary certificates.
Wilders himself is expected back in court early next year to face charges of inciting racial hatred.
In 2007, he branded the Quran as “fascist” and later released Fitna, an anti-Islam film that drew complaints from civil society groups. Wilders says the charges against him are politically motivated. The minority cabinet of the Christian Democrats (CDA) and Liberals (VVD) relies on the support of Wilders’ anti-Islam party to maintain a flimsy one-seat majority in parliament.
NRC Handelsblad, a daily newspaper, reported that the Christian Democrats are concerned about the reputation of a cabinet that has to depend on PVV legislators.
Opposition parties have called on Mark Rutte, the prime minister, to explain how the PVV’s record affects the stability of the government.