Dutch supreme court ruling sets limit to politicians’ free speech

justice courts legal systemA new ruling by the Dutch supreme court sets limits on freedom of speech for politicians and has implications for the case against anti-Islam campaigner Geert Wilders, the NRC says on Tuesday afternoon.

The public prosecution department is soon to take a decision on whether or not to press ahead with prosecuting Wilders for inciting hatred after leading a crowd in an anti-Moroccan chant earlier this year.

The supreme court on Tuesday threw out a lower court ruling which said an Amsterdam city council candidate was not criminally liable for inciting discrimination and hatred against gay people. Delano Felter, campaign leader for a fringe republican party, said on television that gay people were deviants and that they should be ‘booted out’.

The lower court had ruled the statements were allowable under freedom of speech laws because they were made by a politician in the ‘context of a public debate of general importance’.

However, the supreme court said that while politicians can shock or insult as part of public debate, they also have a responsibility ‘to prevent spreading pronouncements which conflict with the law and the principles of a democratic state’.

The case against Felter has been referred back to the appeal court for a retrial.

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