Dutch anti-immigration party leader Geert Wilders has told judges at the end of his discrimination trial “I am no racist” and says anyone who wanted to silence him would have to kill him first.
Virtually tied in opinion polls with the VVD party of conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte ahead of a March 15 parliamentary election, Wilders’ tough stance on immigration has set the national agenda for a decade.
He made the comments in a final statement in his trial on charges of discrimination and inciting hatred for remarks during 2014 campaigning that he wanted “fewer” Moroccans in the Netherlands.
“I am not a racist and my supporters are not racists either,” he said.
“I speak not only on my behalf. My voice is the voice of many. In the name of all those Dutch citizens I call on you to acquit me, acquit us.”
Prosecutors, who reject Wilders’ claim that the trial is about the right to free speech, demanded last Thursday that he pay a fine of 5,000 euros but did not ask for a prison sentence to be imposed.
“I stand alone today, but I am not the only one on trial here. You will be judging millions of men and women in the Netherlands,” Wilders told the court during 30 minutes of politically charged remarks.
He said that calling for fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands was obviously not meant as a call for genocide, but to carry out his party’s agenda, including expelling criminals with dual Moroccan nationality, a stricter immigration policy and an “active voluntary repatriation policy”.
Wilders has never governed, but his anti-Islam, anti-EU stances have won him widespread public support.
He told the judges not to be puppets of the government, which he said brought the trial to try to silence opposition.
Wilders, who won more than a million votes in 2012 and is poised to double that number next March, said that more than 40 per cent of Dutch people agree with his call for fewer Moroccans.
The only solution for the threats made against parliamentary hopeful Sylvana Simons is for her to be ‘protected against herself and her party Denk to be disbanded,’ PVV leader Geert Wilders said on Twitter.
Wilders claims the legal process against him is aimed at stopping him airing his views.
His reaction followed the news that Simons is to be given security after ‘concrete threats’ were made against her in a video of her being lynched like black slaves were in the past.
A 36-year-old man has also been arrested after making a racist and violent video directed at the television presenter. Simons has been in the firing line since going public with her criticism of Zwarte Piet and for linking up with splinter party Denk.
Anti-Islam campaigner Wilders has been under special protection for over 10 years because of threats made against him. GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said of Wilders:
“He claims that he is being silenced but tells a threatened colleague to quit. It is unbelievable.”
Simons told television talk show Pauw on Tuesday night that the threats against her have had a major impact on herself and her family.