Dutch politician Geert Wilders, convicted yesterday of inciting racial discrimination against Moroccans living in the Netherlands, is to appeal against the verdict reached by what he earlier described as ‘a kangeroo court’.
Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court would not impose a sentence on Wilders, head of the right wing PVV Freedom Party. because the conviction was punishment enough for a democratically elected lawmaker. Prosecutors had asked judges to fine him 5,000 euros (£4,200).
The case was based on almost 6,500 official complaints after Wilders led a party rally during a local election campaign in The Hague in March 2014, asking whether there should be “more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.”
The crowd’s response of “fewer, fewer”, was clearly organised, said a judge at the secure court at Schiphol Judicial Complex, near Amsterdam, ruling that Wilders had breached the boundaries of even a politician’s freedom of speech.
“It doesn’t matter that Wilders gave another message afterwards [saying he was referring only to criminal Moroccans and benefits claimants],” said the judge.
The message that evening from the podium, via the media, was loud and proud and did its work … The group was collectively dismissed as inferior to other Dutch people.
Wilders said, in a statement in English posted on his YouTube channel:
I still cannot believe it, but I have been convicted because I asked a question about Moroccans. The Netherlands has become a sick country. The judge who convicted me [has] restricted the freedom of speech for millions of Dutch. I will never be silent. I am not a racist and neither are my voters.
Michiel Pestman, lawyer for some of the complainants who helped bring the case, said:
There is a debate in the Netherlands about whether this has given Wilders free publicity, but he has to pay his lawyers. It’s a unique decision. This is the first time that a court has said that minorities need special protection and even a politician should be very careful about what he says.
He added he expected his clients would be pleased, even though they were not granted compensation and both sides must pay their own costs; he also predicted the case would end up in the European courts.
Abdou Menebhi, one of the complainants, said that he was “satisfied”.
For the first time, Wilders has been condemned for racism and discrimination: half a million people feel the threat of Wilders every day. This gives us trust in the legal process. I hope people who vote for Wilders will listen.
Meanwhile Lucien Nix, a solicitor for the council of Moroccan mosques in Holland added that his clients would be discussing whether they could bring a civil process after this ruling. He added:
The Netherlands can take a deep breath of relief. Moroccan Dutch people have felt robbed of their dignity and a heightened sense of discrimination. We have waited for this for a long time.
In his final statement to the court, delivered on November 23, 2016, Wilders said that he was under constant threat from Islamic terror organisations, such as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS, “and who knows how many individual Muslims”. He spoke of the problems the Dutch had with crimes committed by Moroccans and added:
I must speak. Not just for myself, but for The Netherlands, our country … I need to use the only freedom that I still have to protect our country. Against Islam and against terrorism. Against immigration from Islamic countries. Against the huge problem with Moroccans in The Netherlands. I cannot remain silent about it; I have to speak out. That is my duty, I have to address it, I must warn for it, I have to propose solutions for it?
I had to give up my freedom to do this and I will continue. Always. People who want to stop me will have to murder me first …
Do not forget that, when you judge me, you are not just passing judgment on a single man, but on millions of men and women in The Netherlands …. People who agree with me. People who will not understand a conviction. People who want their country back, who are sick and tired of not being listened to, who cherish freedom of expression.
Members of the court, you are passing judgment on the future of The Netherlands. And I tell you: if you convict me, you will convict half of The Netherlands. And many Dutch will lose their last bit of trust in the rule of law.
I spoke and asked a question about Moroccans. Moroccans are not a race. Who makes this up? No-one at home understands that Moroccans have suddenly become a race. This is utter nonsense. Not a single nationality is a race. Belgians are no race, Americans are no race. Stop this nonsense …
Our ancestors fought for freedom and democracy. They suffered, many gave their lives. We owe our freedoms and the rule of law to these heroes.? But the most important freedom, the cornerstone of our democracy, is freedom of speech. The freedom to think what you want and to say what you think.? If we lose that freedom, we lose everything. Then, The Netherlands cease to exist, then the efforts of all those who suffered and fought for us are useless. From the freedom fighters for our independence in the Golden Age to the resistance heroes in World War II. I ask you: Stand in their tradition. Stand for freedom of expression.
By asking a conviction, the Public Prosecutor, as an accomplice of the established order, as a puppet of the government, asks to silence an opposition politician. And, hence, silence millions of Dutch. I tell you: The problems with Moroccans will not be solved this way, but will only increase.? For people will sooner be silent and say less because they are afraid of being called racist, because they are afraid of being sentenced. If I am convicted, then everyone who says anything about Moroccans will fear to be called a racist.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake