Verdict expected in hate speech trial of Dutch politician Wilders

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 3:09 AM

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - A verdict is expected later on Friday in the hate-speech trial of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was quoted in a newspaper earlier in the day as saying that the judgment was irrelevant.

Wilders was tried on charges of inciting discrimination and hatred at a 2014 gathering, when his supporters chanted they wanted "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" Moroccans in the Netherlands. A smiling Wilders concluded: "we're going to take care of that."

Wilders, who is leading in several polls before March elections, said he was not guilty any wrongdoing. He is not required to come to court for the verdict and is not expected to attend.

"Every verdict, acquittal, or conviction will de facto change nothing," he said in an interview with De Telegraaf published on Friday.

"I will continue to speak the truth regardless, including about the Moroccan problem, and no judge, politician or terrorist will stop me."

In closing remarks on Nov. 23, he told judges his remarks were obviously not intended as a call to genocide -- he has never advocated violence -- but rather a reference to his official party platform.

Measures he endorses that could lead to fewer Moroccans include a ban on immigration, expelling Moroccans with dual nationality who commit crimes, and a "voluntary repatriation" policy.

Prosecutors, who rejected Wilders' assertions the trial is politically motivated and an unfair attempt to limit his right to free speech, have asked that a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,300), but no prison sentence, be imposed.

If Wilders is convicted and decides to appeal, the process would be likely to last throughout the parliamentary election campaign, which runs for six weeks before voting on March 15.

A previous attempt to prosecute Wilders for anti-Islam remarks, such as likening the religion to Nazism and calling for a ban on the Koran, ended in acquittal in 2011. That process was widely seen as strengthening his reputation as a defender of freedom of speech and increased his popularity.

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(Reporting by Toby Sterling, editing by Larry King)