Geert Wilders’ trial for inciting hatred and discrimination starts on Monday but the PVV leader said on Friday he will not attend the hearings.
In the Netherlands, it is not compulsory to appear in court personally, but Wilders was at all the previous procedural hearings relating to the case, and generated a great deal of media coverage.
In a letter in the AD, Wilders says the trial is a political process and that he will carry on the debate in the appropriate place – parliament.
It is, Wilders said, his right and his duty to talk about problems in the Netherlands. ‘And the Netherlands has an enormous Moroccan problem,’ he said. ‘If talking about it is a criminal offence, then the Netherlands is no longer a free country but a dictatorship.’
Wilder’s lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops had submitted a motion calling for the trial to stop, arguing that it would effectively be a political assessment of Wilders and the PVV.
However, judges said earlier this month that while there are political aspects to the case, it is up to the courts to decide where the boundaries of free speech and political campaigning lie.
Wilders is on trial for his role in a party rally in March 2014, where he led supporters in a chant for ‘fewer, fewer, fewer’ Moroccans in the Netherlands.
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