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Dutch politician Wilders brands trial a 'charade'

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders has delivered a fiery closing statement at his hate speech trial, branding his prosecution a "charade".

He added that the trial was a "disgrace for the Netherlands" and "a mockery for our society" that threatens freedom of speech.

Wilders, whose party is riding high in Dutch opinion polls, told a three-judge panel sitting in a heavily guarded courtroom on the outskirts of Amsterdam that, as an elected politician, he must be able to talk about the "mega-Moroccan problem" in the Netherlands and would not be muzzled by what he branded a political trial.

In an address that sounded as much like a campaign speech ahead of Dutch parliamentary elections due in March as a legal defence, Wilders cast himself as part of a growing global anti-establishment movement that already has manifested itself in the British vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential election.

"Worldwide, a movement has started that is making short shrift of the politically correct doctrines of the elite and their subordinate media," Wilders said. "Brexit proved it. The American election proved it."

And, turning to upcoming elections and votes across Europe, he added: "It is about to be proven in Austria and Italy. Next year it will also be proven in France, Germany and, yes, also in the Netherlands."

The prosecution centres on comments Wilders made before and after the Dutch municipal elections in 2014.

At one meeting in a Hague cafe, he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, the court heard.

That sparked a chant of "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!", to which he replied "we'll take care of it", the court heard.

Prosecutors say that Wilders overstepped the limits of free speech by specifically targeting Moroccans.

But he insisted that the election night speech was in line with his Freedom Party's long-held policy ambitions of expelling criminals with Moroccan nationality, reining in immigration and encouraging voluntary repatriation.

The court will deliver its verdict on December 9.

Earlier, prosecutor Wouter Bos urged judges to reject arguments put forward by Wilders's lawyers that convicting the politician would put the Netherlands on a slippery slope to totalitarianism.

"In the Netherlands there is no unlimited freedom of speech," Mr Bos told the three-judge panel. "We will not become a totalitarian state if you convict."

Wilders, in turn, harked back to his country's long history of free speech and tolerance as he called on judges to acquit him.

"Freedom of speech is our pride," he said. "And that, precisely that, is at stake here, today."



From Belfast Telegraph