Dutch prosecutors to appeal Geert Wilders’ sentence

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Dutch prosecutors said Friday they would appeal a local court verdict earlier this month which found anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders guilty of discrimination but did not give him a prison sentence.

The populist Wilders, who is leading in polls ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections, was convicted on December 9 of discrimination, but acquitted of hate speech over comments he made about Moroccans living in the Netherlands.

After a three-week trial, the three judges ruled “the inflammatory character of the way in which the statements were made have incited others to discriminate people of Moroccan origin.”

The trial had focussed in particular on a statement made at a 2014 local government election rally in The Hague, when Wilders asked supporters whether they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans in your city and in the Netherlands”.

When the crowd shouted back “Fewer! Fewer!” a smiling Wilders answered: “We’re going to organise that.”

The judges concluded there was “insufficient evidence” to prove his words amounted to incitement to hatred, and also dismissed the prosecution’s request to impose a 5,000-euro  fine.

“The public prosecution service finds that the verdict in regards to a fine needs re-examination,” the NOS public newscaster reported, quoting an unnamed prosecution services official.

Wilders, 53, largely boycotted the trial which he denounced as a political attempt to gag him and has previously said he would appeal.

The outcome of the Dutch vote will be keenly watched given the anti-EU outcome of Britain’s Brexit referendum and the November election of populist Donald Trump as the next US president.

Wilders has among other things vowed to confiscate Korans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut the borders and ban migrants from Islamic countries.