Geert Wilders on trial for comments about Moroccans

Dutch far-right leader back in court for vowing he will make sure fewer Moroccans will live in the Netherlands.

France's Marine Le Pen, left, is an important ally of Geert Wilders in European politics [Alessandro Garofalo/[Reuters]

Geert Wilders, the Dutch right-wing politician who was acquitted five years ago of making anti-Islam remarks, is going on trial in the Netherlands again for allegedly inciting hatred against the country’s Moroccan minority.

The case on Friday comes as Wilders and other populist politicians – including Donald Trump in the United States and Marine le Pen in France – have stepped up calls for a ban on Muslim immigration.

State prosecutors say Wilders asked a crowd of supporters in March 2014 whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, triggering the chant: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” – to which a smiling Wilders responded: “We’ll take care of that.”

The lawmaker faces one charge of discrimination and a second for inciting hatred of Moroccans, who make up about 2 percent of the population of roughly 17 million.

Dutch politician Wilders sued over ‘fewer Moroccans’ vow

In addition to the “fewer” comment, Wilders referred to Moroccans as “scum” in a television broadcast. He may go to jail for as long as a year and could be fined a maximum of 7,400 euros ($8,400).

Wilders, whose decade-old Freedom Party holds a commanding lead in Dutch popular opinion polls but has never been in power, denies any wrongdoing.

Wilders has lived under 24-hour protection since the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, who – like Wilders – made films criticising Islam.

In a previous case, Wilders was acquitted in 2011 after  calling for a “towel-head” tax and equating the Koran with Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He had said at the time that “Muslim criminals” should be stripped of their Dutch nationality and deported.

Judges concluded that Wilders’ remarks may have been rude, but he was let off because they targeted a religion, not a race.

“That is the difference now,” prosecution spokeswoman Ilse de Heer said.

‘Targeting specific race’

Friday’s prosecution is different because his remarks “targeted a specific race, which is considered a crime”.

Wilders had called on Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Deputy Prime Lodewijk Asscher to be interrogated in court, but the judge rejected that, according to the Dutch daily newspaper AD.


The AD also reported that two of Wilders’ witness experts pulled out for fear for their safety or of being drawn into his camp.

The hearing at a high-security courtroom next to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is frequently used for cases involving organised crime.

In France in December, Le Pen was acquitted of charges of inciting hatred against French Muslims for comparing Muslims praying in the street to the German occupation of France during World War Two.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters