Liberal party (VVD) members and senior officials have reacted angrily to party leader Mark Rutte’s suggestion that denying the holocaust should no longer be a crime.
Rutte made the suggestion as part of a plea for more liberal freedom of speech laws. ‘But he should never have used this [the holocaust] as an example,’ one MP told the Volkskrant.
Dozens of complaints have been made to party HQ and some people have cancelled their membership, the paper says. Local branches have also been fending off angry members. ‘I have had 15 to 20 and that is not insignificant in a local party with 200 members,’ Tony Colijn, of the Ede town branch was quoted as saying.
A poll by tv show EénVandaag showed 46% backed Rutte and 48% were opposed.
Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen said on Thursday that Rutte had lost his way.
MP Geert Wilders, who claims to be a champion of free speech and is also a great friend of Israel has yet to comment on Rutte’s suggestion.
Rutte told Nos radio on Friday that he was sorry for the commotion his comments had caused. He said he had not raised the issue of the holocaust but had been asked about it by reporters and had tried to give a straight answer.
Denying the holocaust would usually be a crime because ‘it almost always happens in the context of encouraging violence’, he told Nos radio.
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