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Geert Wilders, anti-Islam politician, boycotts his own hate-speech trial

By Andrew V. Pestano
Geert Wilders, anti-Islam politician, boycotts his own hate-speech trial
Dutch politician Geert Wilders, seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena on day two of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 19, 2016, did not appear for the first day of court for a trial in which he faces charges related to chants at a 2014 rally. File photo by Pete Marovich/UPI | License Photo

THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Geert Wilders, an anti-Islam politician in the Netherlands, did not show up in court Monday for the start of his own trial, in which he is facing charges of inciting hatred and racial discrimination.

The charges stem from an incident in which Wilders led a rally where participants chanted what is being characterized as hate speech. In the 2014 rally, Wilders asked the crowd whether they wanted "fewer or more Moroccans" in the Netherlands. The crowd chanted back "fewer" -- to which he replied "We'll organize that."

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Wilders is a known critic of Islam, previously calling for all Dutch mosques to be closed and for the Koran to be banned. He has called the charges brought against him a "travesty" that is political in nature and an attempt to suppress free speech.

"This is a political process, and I refuse to co-operate with it," Wilders said through a statement read by his lawyer in court. "We have to talk about politics in parliament, not in the courtroom."

Dutch authorities received nearly 6,500 complaints related to Wilders' comments at the 2014 rally. The prosecution said Wilders is incorrect in assuming his political status grants him amnesty from hate speech laws.

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"[Netherlands] has huge problem with Moroccans. To be silent about it is cowardly ... 43 percent of Dutch want fewer Moroccans. No verdict will change that," Wilders said in a statement on Monday.

Wilders released a statement in which he defends himself.

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