The main hearing in Geert Wilders’ appeal against his conviction for inciting discrimination is likely to begin in May 2018, the chairman of the appeal court said on Tuesday.
During the first procedural sitting in the appeal, at the high security court at Schiphol airport, Wilders’ lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops called for ‘scientific research’ into important elements of what he called ‘this special case’.
In particular, this should centre on the boundaries of free speech, because this is fundamental to democracy and the rule of law, Knoops said.
Wilders is also attempting to have the chairwoman of the court removed for not being impartial.
The MP claims Jeanne Gaakeer is chairwoman of the Gascaria foundation, which every year awards a Masters student a €1,000 price for the best thesis.
Las year the prize went to Sinead Wendt, an Amsterdam University student who was praised in the official jury report not only for her thesis but for her work with undocumented refugees. Wilders claims she is a left-wing activist who has taken part in demonstrations against both himself and US president Trump.
The court will rule on his efforts to have Gaakeer removed from the bench on Thursday.
Wilders is appealing against his conviction for two incidents during a local election campaign in The Hague in 2014.
On March 12, he told the NOS broadcaster that people were voting ‘for a safer, more social city with less trouble and if possible, fewer Moroccans.’ A week later, he asked the audience at a party rally whether they wanted fewer Moroccans, then added: ‘Then we will arrange this.’
A panel of three judges ruled Wilders’s comments were ‘demeaning and insulting to the Moroccan population’. However, the court decided not to fine or sentence Wilders on the basis that a criminal conviction was sufficient punishment in itself.
Both Wilders and the public prosecution department are appealing against the original sentence. The hearings will take two days.
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