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article imageAppeal in far-right Dutch MP's discrimination case set for May

By AFP     Nov 9, 2017 in World

Firebrand anti-Islam Dutch political Geert Wilders will return to court in May to appeal against his 2016 conviction for discrimination, judges ruled Thursday.

But they rejected the defence request for other witnesses to be called. These included Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other former ministers, the Dutch broadcaster NOS said.

"The substantive hearing will start on May 17, 2018. The date has been planned in consultation with the prosecution service and the defendant's lawyers," the judges said.

The populist Wilders is appealing against a December ruling which found him guilty of discrimination against Moroccans in a speech at a 2014 election rally. He was however acquitted of hate speech.

But the judges in the first trial did not impose any prison sentence and also dismissed the prosecution's request for a 5,000 euro fine -- something which prosecutors are also appealing.

The first trial focused in particular on a statement made at a 2014 local government election rally in The Hague.

Wilders, who has vowed to ban sales of the Koran, close mosques and bar migrants from Islamic countries, 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 appeals judges called on the prosecution to provide detailed information about how 6,400 complaints received about the speech had been handled.

But they said the complainants did not need to appear in court, and the tribunal "also rejects defence requests that other witnesses be heard".

The appeal will start several months after the March 21 local elections, when Wilders is hoping his Freedom Party (PVV) will make gains on Dutch councils.

Buoyed by the migrant crisis, the PVV boosted its support in the March general elections capturing 20 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament and becoming the largest party in the opposition. But it failed to live up to polls earlier in the year predicting it could win the elections with as many as 31 deputies.

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