[JURIST] Dutch prosecutors on Thursday said that more than 5,000 people in the Netherlands have filed complaints against Party for Freedom (PVV) [official website, in Dutch] leader Geert Wilders [official website; JURIST news archive] for discrimination following anti-Moroccan comments Wilders made during municipal election campaigning. Prosecutors are currently reviewing the complaints [Reuters report] to determine whether they should result in formal criminal proceedings. The politician led a chant at a political event in The Hague last month calling for fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. The chant has led to backlash from the public, resulting in Wilders’ loss of his top position [Reuters report] in the country’s opinion polls and the resignation of several well-known party members in protest. Wilders on Saturday refused to apologize, maintaining that he had broken no anti-discrimination laws.
This is not the first time Wilders has faced legal action for discriminatory speech. In 2011 he was acquitted [JURIST report] of discrimination charges for anti-Islamic comments after the court found that his statements did not constitute hate speech or discrimination. The case against Wilders suffered a number of setbacks. In February 2011, the trial court granted Wilders the right to set out the objections he had made during the initial trial, which was postponed following the dismissal of the original panel of judges [JURIST report] amidst allegations of bias. Prior to their dismissal, the original panel members heard the prosecution’s case, which culminated in a request that Wilders be acquitted on all charges [JURIST report]. The prosecutors based their request on determinations that the politician’s statements were directed at Islam and not Muslims themselves and additionally, that the evidence failed to establish that he intended to incite violence. The presentment of the prosecution’s case followed an order from a panel of Dutch judges to resume the trial after initially rejecting claims of judicial bias [JURIST report]. The trial had previously been suspended [JURIST report] after a lawyer representing Wilders accused one of the judges of making a statement which cast him in an unfavorable light to the jury.