AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on Tuesday called for either an acquittal or a procedural delay in his appeal against a 2016 conviction for inciting discrimination against Moroccans.
“This trial has every appearance of being politically motivated. Stop the witch hunt!” he told judges at the Hague Appeals Court.
Wilders was convicted over a 2014 incident at a campaign rally when he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. When they chanted “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” he replied: “We’re going to take care of that.”
He was prosecuted after Dutch authorities received dozens of complaints from individuals and Muslim groups.
“I only asked a question that half of the Netherlands would answer with ‘Yes’,” Wilders told the appeals court.
The judges at his original trial found that Wilders’ remarks were insulting to Dutch Moroccans and that his right to freedom of speech did not outweigh their right to be spared incitement to discrimination. But Wilders was not fined or jailed.
Before setting out the substance of their appeal, Wilders and his lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops argued on Tuesday that the case was fundamentally flawed because prosecutors had failed to disclose the alleged involvement of then-justice minister Ivo Opstelten, a political opponent, in launching the original prosecution.
They requested a delay to allow more witnesses to be interviewed to demonstrate Opstelten’s alleged involvement and bias.
Prosecutor Gerard Sta said the minister had no hand in the case and had only been briefed about its progress as part of routine practice.
The appeals judges were expected to rule later on Tuesday on whether to grant a delay.
Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Kevin Liffey