The charges against far-right MP Geert Wilders have been extended to include inciting hatred of Moroccans and non-Western ethnic minorities, de Volkskrant newspaper reports.
Up to now, the Freedom Party leader has been charged with inciting hatred against Muslims for his remarks in the media and his anti-Islam film Fitna. Mr Wilders has compared the Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and called for it to be banned.
However, the public prosecutor’s office has now decided to widen the charges, based in part on Mr Wilders' response in a 2006 interview when asked what he would do if he came to power in the Netherlands: "The same day the borders would be closed to all non-Western immigrants." Mr Wilders has also expressed this view in parliament.
The decision to widen the charges is striking because the public prosecutor’s office initially decided there wasn't enough of a case to go forward. It only went ahead with the prosecution after an Amsterdam court ruled last year that Mr Wilders should indeed face charges of insulting Muslims as a group and inciting hatred and discrimination towards them.
The lawyers who brought the case against Mr Wilders have welcomed the public prosecutor’s move. Haroon Raza of anti-racism organisation NBK told de Volkskrant he was “extremely satisfied”. NBK argues that Mr Wilders is not only anti-Islam but also racist. Amsterdam lawyer Gerard Spong described the public prosecutor’s decision as a sign of “deepening insight”. It was he who brought the appeal against the initial conclusion that Mr Wilders should not be prosecuted.
The public prosecutor’s office has not commented on the reasons behind its decision to widen the charges. A spokesperson told de Volkskrant that the motivation would be explained during the initial hearing in the case, set for 20 January.
Mr Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz set out his objections to the charges in a closed hearing on Wednesday. He argued that there were no grounds to prosecute his client for insulting Muslims as a group.
Mr Wilders says that his criticism has always been directed against Islam as a religion, and not against Muslims. He attended the hearing in person although he did not enter the court by the main entrance due to death threats which have been made against him.
At the end of the hearing, the court threw out Geert Wilders's objections to the charges, so the trial will go ahead as planned next week. Wilders repeated that he believes the prosecution to be politically motivated, saying there was more justice in North Korea.
Past remarks by Geert Wilders:
“Introduce an immediate halt on immigration for people from Muslim countries. Forbid the burqa and the fascist Qur’an.”
“Let us reconquer our streets. Let us ensure that finally the Netherlands really looks like the Netherlands. […] Time for the big clean-up of our streets.”
“There is no moderate Islam. Islam is as I see it is a fascist ideology.”