20:17 GMT +319 September 2019
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    Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom

    Freedom ‘Not Absolute’: Dutch Lawmaker on Trial for Hate Speech

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    Amid rising anti-immigration sentiments in Europe, the trial of a Dutch lawmaker charged with hate speech, is set to challenge the boundaries of freedom of expression in the Netherlands.

    Geert Wilders, member of Dutch Parliament, appeared before the court on Friday. This is not the first trial for the notorious politician, who he was acquitted after being charged with insulting Islam in 2011.

    The latest charges against Wilders are based on comments he made against Moroccan migrants prior to and after his 2014 election campaign.

    The politician, known for his harsh stance on immigration, questioned followers at his Party for Freedom’s meeting as to whether they wanted to see more or fewer Moroccans entering the country. As the heated audience responded with chants of "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" Wilders tossed off the remark, “We'll take care of it," as recalled by prosecutor Wouter Bos on Friday.

    In the crowded courtroom on the outskirts of Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, Bos described Wilder’s comment as precisely “choreographed and planned,” despite admitting that other claims by politicians could have been a "slip of the tongue.”

    According to Bos, this case brings together a ban on discrimination and the right to freedom of expression, grounds upon which the Dutch constitution rests.

    "The importance of freedom of speech is great. It is one of the essential elements of our democratic society," Bos said, but added that “freedom of speech is not absolute."

    Geert-Jan Knoops, an attorney for Wilders, stated that his client is being deprived of freedom of expression which, he asserts, is the politician’s last freedom. The lawmaker has been on around-the clock protection for over a decade because of constant death threats.

    Supporters of Wilders, looking glum, rallied outside the courtroom wearing T-shirts stating "Wilders for President." Some expressed concern that the known racist wouldn’t get a fair trial.

    Wilders trial begins October 31st.


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