The Dutch disctrict court of Haarlem [official website] said [Press release, in Dutch] Friday that Geert Wilders, the leader of the Dutch right wing political party, Party for Freedom [party website], has been convicted of inciting discrimination. The incident in question happened in March 2014 during a political rally, where Wilders promised to lower the number of Morrocans in the Netherlands. The court ruled [decision, in Dutch] that there were limits to the right to free speech and that Wilders as a leader of a political party had a duty not to polarize society. The court further stated: “If a politician crosses the line, that doesn’t mean free speech is being restricted. A crime cannot be protected by the right to free speech.” The court decided not to impose any prison sentence or fine, as requested by the prosecution, as they held that the conviction itself was enough punishment. Wilders has said that he will appeal the conviction.
The trial started [JURIST report] in October without the presence of Wilders himself and he was reportedly facing up to a year in prison if convicted. The Dutch prosecutor started an investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations in 2014 after receiving more than 6,400 complaints about the remarks made by Wilders. In 2011 Wilders was also accused of hate speech [JURIST report] for saying he hated Islam, comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf and for creating the controversial movie Fitna among others. He was acquitted of all charges on that occasion.