Dutch anti-Islam MP in court on hate speech charges

Far-right anti-immigrant Dutch MP Geert Wilders appeared before a top security court today for a hearing ahead of his high-profile trial later this year on charges of incitement to hatred.

Schiphol: Far-right anti-immigrant Dutch MP Geert Wilders appeared before a top security court today for a hearing ahead of his high-profile trial later this year on charges of incitement to hatred.

On his way to the tribunal, Wilders tweeted: "On my way to the courthouse. Nobody will silence me. No terrorist, no prime minister and no court."

The case against Wilders centres on comments by the populist politician, famous for his trademark peroxide blond hair, at a March 2014 local election rally.

He 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 remark triggered 6,400 complaints from across the Netherlands, and Wilders even faced criticism from within his Party for Freedom (PVV).

"You are here as a suspect in a criminal case. You are not required to say anything or answer any questions," Judge Hendrik Steenhuis told him as the hearing started.

Dressed in a blue suit, Wilders appeared relaxed, getting out his phone to take a picture of the photographers jostling to take his picture.

"Racism and hatred towards foreigners is in direct contravention of the freedoms we have in a democratic society," prosecutor Wouter Bos told the court.

"The prosecution believes that you insulted Moroccans as a group and committed incitement to hate speech," he added, saying that while "freedom of speech is a fundamental principle .... (it) is not an absolute."

Outside the heavily-fortified court complex, a handful of supporters, waving Dutch flags and scarfs, gathered early today watched by dozens of police and gendarmes.

Security forces lined the road to the high-security complex, a few kilometres (miles) outside Schiphol Airport.

Some supporters wore pink hats depicting a cartoon pig, seen as an apparent insult to Islam and Muslims.

The influx of refugees into The Netherlands has polarised Dutch society, with Wilder's party tapping into popular discontent and currently topping opinion polls.

Wilders has denounced the decision to prosecute him as "incomprehensible," telling AFP in a recent interview that he was referring to a "criminal element" among Moroccans and not to the group as a whole.

Today's hearing has been called to examine where the investigations stand ahead of the full trial due to start on October 31.

If found guilty, Wilders could face up to two years in jail or a fine of more than 20,000 euros, according to Dutch penal laws.

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