Geert Wilders, a far-right anti-immigration and anti-Islamic populist who is leader of the opposition in the Dutch Parliament, was acquitted Friday in a Netherlands appeals court for inciting discrimination.
The court agreed with an earlier decision to dismiss the offense of inciting hatred and dismiss a 5,000 euro fine. But the court upheld a conviction for intentionally insulting Moroccans as a group which Wilders has stated he will appeal.
The incitement of hatred charge was dismissed because, while the comments at issue in the case were insulting, Wilders’s purpose was for political gain without intent to encourage his audience to discriminate against all Moroccans. He asked the audience at an election-night rally if they want more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, to which they replied fewer. Wilders replied by saying, “Well, then we will arrange that.”
The court reasoned that sentencing Wilders would not serve much purpose since he has paid a high price for his opinions for years. He has had police protection for more than a decade due to death threats.
Presiding Judge Jan Maarten Reinking stated, “Although offensive statements are protected to a certain extent by the right to freedom of expression, in this case the suspect has gone too far and is thus guilty of a criminal offense.”