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Far-right Wilders' discrimination conviction overturned

September 4, 2020

The far-right populist Geert Wilders had been found guilty by a lower court in the Netherlands of inciting hatred against Moroccans. But an appeals court has dismissed the charges.

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders
Image: Reuters/P. van de Wouw

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred or discrimination, a court said on Friday.

Judges did, however, uphold his prior conviction for collectively insulting the Moroccan people. 

Wilders' trial was seen as pitting the rights of freedom of speech against the right of ethnic and religious minorities not to suffer verbal abuse and discrimination.

The appeals court on Friday overturned the conviction for inciting hatred that was made by a lower court, in which he had been handed a fine of €5,000 ($5,900).

Read more: The Hague: Dozens arrested after several nights of riots

The charges against Wilders were levied in 2016 and related to one of his campaign rallies two years earlier. At the event, Wilders led supporters by asking whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. 

"Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" his supporters chanted back. "We're going to take care of that," Wilders told the crowd. 

No punishment 

"The court considers it proven that Mr. Wilders is guilty of group insult on March 19, 2014. The court will not impose any punishment or measure on him for this," presiding judge J.M. Reinking said. "He is acquitted of the other facts." 

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Wilders said on Twitter ahead of the verdict that his appeals trial would decide if the Netherlands had "become a corrupt banana republic where the leader of the opposition is sentenced in a political trial." 

He said the judgment was being handed down at a heavily secured court near Schiphol airport "while Moroccans who set our cities on fire usually get away with it and never see the inside of a court." 

jcj/mm (AFP, AP, Reuters)