Anti-Islam political leader Geert Wilders (Photo: Creative Commons)
Controversial anti-Islam political leader Geert Wilders was convicted on December 9 of inciting discrimination and of insulting a group for saying that the Netherlands would be safer with fewer Moroccans.
But no penalty was imposed on Wilders, whose Party for Freedom is leading in polls ahead of the general elections in March.
The three-member judiciary panel found that Wilders violated Dutch law with his remarks on March 19, 2014, but it elected not to convict him of inciting hatred and rejected the prosecutors’ request to fine him €5,000 (£4,180).
Wilders was found to have violated laws on inciting discrimination and group offense when he led a crowd at a political rally around the time of municipal elections in The Hague by chanting, “Fewer, fewer” to the question “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?”
If the Party for Freedom wins the most seats in the elections, Wilders could become prime minister, and he would then have to form a coalition government with other willing parties.
Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, leader of the center-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, said a year ago that he would refuse to join such a coalition unless Wilders retracted his comments about Moroccans.
Wilders, whose defense team said he would appeal the decision, was not present when the verdict was read by the chief judge, Hendrik Steenhuis.
Spokesman for the Public Prosecution Service, Frans Zonneveld, said, “The most important thing is that he is found guilty of group insult and inciting discrimination. For now, we’re very satisfied that he has been found guilty of these two charges.”
The judges said that Wilders’s comments at the rally had further polarized Dutch society by using “nationality as an ethnic designation” and that mutual respect was imperative in the “pluralistic” Netherlands.
“He said that he was supported by millions of people and therefore was not to blame of offending a group,” Judge Steenhuis said. “It’s important to answer the question of whether he was guilty of this. That question is answered in our court system. We state that you cannot offend groups of people and discriminate against them.”
Wilders has repeatedly made vitriolic and inflammatory remarks about Islam, the Qur’an, immigrants and Dutch minority groups.
“I still cannot believe it, but I have just been convicted because I asked a question about Moroccans,” said Wilders.