Interior minister Kajsa Ollongren has urged Thierry Baudet to air his grievances in a public debate after the Forum voor Democratie (FvD) leader filed a police complaint against her claim that he was failing to tackle racism in his party.
Baudet announced his decision to seek legal redress against Ollongren for ‘defamation’ in a press conference on Sunday that lasted less than four minutes, without giving the half-dozen journalists present any chance to ask questions.
In a public speech in Nijmegen on Friday, Ollongren attacked Baudet for not condemning a party colleague Yernaz Ramautarsing, after the latter claimed in a TV interview that people from non-white races had lower IQs.
‘The latest spin-off of populism goes beyond the point where Wilders stops,’ said Ollongren. ‘Baudet’s party seems to be obsessed with one of the few taboos that I adhere to as a progressive liberal: talking about race in political debate.’
She went on: ‘Baudet claimed this was a scientific debate. He didn’t want to get involved in it. In other words, he allowed blatant discrimination on grounds of race by one of his party colleagues to go unchallenged.’
Baudet said in his brief statement that Ollongren had crossed a line by accusing him of committing an offence. ‘Racism is judging people on the basis of their appearance or origin and we do not do that in any way,’ he said.
On Saturday the FvD leader tweeted a picture of himself at a police station with his fellow FvD MP and criminal lawyer Theo Hiddema, who is representing him in the case.
Bij het politiebureau om aangifte te doen tegen de Minister van Binnenlandse Zaken. Om 12:30 uur vanmiddag geef ik met mr. Theo Hiddema, die zal optreden als mijn advocaat, een persconferentie in Hotel de l’Europe in Amsterdam. #FVD pic.twitter.com/yUvGv1Q0V9
— Thierry Baudet (@thierrybaudet) February 3, 2018
Ollongren responded later on Sunday with a statement saying Baudet was free to report her statements to the police. ‘But it would make more sense for him to start a political debate. I’m open to that.’
Baudet previously turned to the courts in the wake of the advisory referendum on the EU’s accession treaty with Ukraine, which was rejected by voters, claiming that the cabinet was deliberately delaying its response. On that occasion a judge dismissed the claim on the basis that it was the job of parliament, rather than the courts, to hold the government to account for its legislative programme.