Pre-trial review in criminal case against Geert Wilders
18 maart 2016 - Arrondissementsparket Den Haag
On Friday 18 March 2016, the first public session in the criminal case against Geert Wilders was held at Schiphol Judicial Complex.
The pre-trial review served to discuss the current status of the preliminary inquiry with Geert Wilders, his lawyers and the trial judges.
At an earlier stage, the defence submitted investigation requests which were rejected by the Examining Magistrate and the court in chambers. The defence subsequently reserved the right to submit the rejected investigation requests to the court trying the substance of the case. For this reason, the pre-trial review was called.
In addition to investigation requests being discussed, the Public Prosecution Service read out the indictment. To conclude, further scheduling of the case was discussed. In this context, the Public Prosecution Service emphasised the importance of progress in the case.
The indictment states what the suspicion against Geert Wilders is. He is suspected of insulting a group of people based on race and inciting discrimination and hatred. This is because of his statements about Moroccans on 12 and 19 March 2014 in The Hague.
On 12 March 2014, he said in an interview with NOS news service: “It is most important for the people here on the market the Hagenaars, Hagenezen and Scheveningers [inhabitants of The Hague] as Leon always calls them properly and correctly. Those are the people we are doing it for. They vote for a safer and more social and in any event a city with fewer burdens and also, if possible, fewer Moroccans.”
On 19 March 2014, in a Hague catering establishment during a PVV party meeting around the municipal elections, Geert Wilders asked the public: “I’m asking you, do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?” The public responded to this by chanting around 16 times: “Fewer, fewer!” Geert Wilders then responded again by saying: “Well, we’ll arrange that then”.
When reading out the indictment, the Public Prosecutor emphasised that two fundamental rights are touching eachother in this case: freedom of speech and the prohibition on discrimination. The Public Prosecution Service will not adopt a position on whether Geert Wilders in fact violated the law until the substance of the case is tried. This is scheduled as from 31 October 2016.
Form of participation in a criminal act
The Public Prosecution Service has opted for including various “forms of participation in a criminal act” in the indictment. This relates to the interaction between Geert Wilders and the public on 19 March 2014. The interaction can be assessed differently from a legal point of view. For this reason, the Public Prosecution Service included all possible forms of participation in a criminal act in the indictment.
Statements planned in advance?
At the pre-trial review today, the public prosecutor also elaborated on the question whether the statements of Geert Wilders had been planned previously. Regarding his statement on March 12, 2014 several witnesses have declared that this was not known to them in advance and came as a surprise. In the view of the Public Prosecution Service his speech on March 19, 2014 was carefully thought through in advance. The audience was instructed beforehand by a staff member on the answers to be given to the questions that Geert Wilders would ask.
The next pre-trial review in this case is on May 26, 2016. The substantive hearing is now scheduled as from October 31, 2016.