"The Netherlands has a mega Moroccan problem" - Dutch politician on trial for inciting hatred

Geert Wilders has called the trial a 'travesty'

"The Netherlands has a mega Moroccan problem" - Dutch politician on trial for inciting hatred

File photo of Geert Wilders. | Peter Dejong AP/Press Association Images

Dutch anti-Islam minister politician Geert Wilders went on trial for discrimination and inciting hatred today.

Mr Wilders is being charged over comments he made during local elections in the Netherlands two years ago. At a party rally in The Hague, he asked supporters if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country. The crowd responded by chanting: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Mr. Wilders replied: “Well, we’ll take care of it then.”

More than 6,000 people filed complaints with the police after the speech was broadcast on national television, including many citizens of Dutch-Moroccan origin who accused the politician of sowing hatred and fueling ethnic tensions.
 
Mr. Wilders argues that he was only talking about specific problems and that he didn’t want all Moroccans to leave the country. He did not attend the opening of the trial.
 
“It is my right and my duty as a politician to speak about the problems in our country. Because the Netherlands has a mega Moroccan problem,” he said in a statement this morning.
 
Wilders has been the frontrunner for the parliamentary elections next March for about a year, but the latest opinion polls show him running either neck and neck or just behind the Liberals (VVD) of prime minister Mark Rutte, with about 18% of the vote in the highly fragmented Dutch landscape.
 
Dutch, Germans and French voters are gearing up for a series of elections next year. in which rightwing groups, such as Mr Wilders Freedom Party (PVV) are seeking to make immigration a central issue.
 
“Parliamentarians have great freedom to say what they stand for,” Dutch prosecutors said. ”However, it does not exempt them from the responsibility of complying with the law.”
 
His narrowing lead coincides with a drop in the number of refugees arriving in the Netherlands.
 
The PVV's draft manifesto includes pledges to shut every mosque – previously Wilders merely opposed building new ones. It also calls for a ban on the Koran and headscarves from government buildings, the tearing up of the Schengen open borders agreement and a “Nexit” referendum to follow the UK out of the European Union.