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Dutch court upholds hate speech case against far-right MP

THE HAGUE (AFP) – 

A Dutch court on Friday upheld hate speech charges against anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, meaning his trial will now start later this month.

“The court rejects all the defence’s objections,” judge Hendrik Steenhuis told The Hague district court.

Wilders’s lawyers last month urged judges at a preliminary hearing to drop the charges against the far-right leader, slamming it as a “political case” ahead of elections due in March.

But in his ruling, Steenhuis said prosecuting Wilders will “not affect his political freedoms or that of his Freedom Party.”

The trial, which will now start on October 31, focuses on comments made at a March 2014 election rally in The Hague, when Wilders asked supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands?”

When the crowd shouted back “Fewer! Fewer!” a smiling Wilders answered: “We’re going to organise that.”

His lawyers argued Wilders had merely “put forward his party’s political programme”, and insisted he had a fundamental right to freedom of speech.

Continuing with the case to trial could have “far reaching political consequences for democracy in the Netherlands,” his lawyer had argued.

Wilders has remained unrepentant, insisting at his last court appearance that he only said “what millions of Dutch citizens think,” and adding he had “no regrets.”

The prosecution of the platinum-haired politician comes as his Freedom Party (PVV) has been riding high in the polls ahead of the March vote.

But the PVV recently lost its lead to Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD party.

Wilders’s remarks triggered 6,400 complaints, and criticism from within his own party.

Some 56 people and five organisations have registered as victims of the comments and at least 34 witnesses have come forward, judges have said.

© 2016 AFP

Article source: http://www.france24.com/en/20161014-dutch-court-upholds-hate-speech-case-against-far-right-mp