Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders did not attend the first session of his trial for hate speech, but actively protested on Twitter against what he called "a kangaroo court" and a "political trial".
The trial began in a high court near Schiphol, south of Amsterdam, on 31 October, available to livestream. Wilders is being prosecuted for inciting hatred and discrimination against Moroccan people, who make up roughly 2% of the country's population.
In a rally held in the Dutch capital of The Hague on 19 March 2014, he asked people if they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country, and, after the crowds responded "fewer", he added "We're going to arrange that".
Precisely 6,474 complaints were filed against the leader of the People's Freedom Party (PVV), and ultimately 61 parties, including 56 individual and five organisations, filed a claim that was admitted to court on 14 October after a court rejected Wilders' lawyers plea to dismiss it. The trial is expected to last three weeks.
Episodes of anti-Muslim discrimination are dramatically increasing in the country, with data presented by the Dutch police showing that the 439 incidents recorded in 2015 more than doubled those of the previous year. Muslim women and men who wear clearly recognisable Muslim clothing such as headscarves are particularly targeted in Islamophobic attacks.
Wilders is notorious for making Islamophobic remarks in his speeches, including comparing the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf. He was temporarily barred from entering the UK in 2009 on hate speech grounds, and has been living under 24-hour police protection since 2004, after the assassination of film director Theo van Gogh, who made a film criticising the treatment of women in Islam.
He previously stood trial on similar hate speech charges, but was found not guilty in June 2011. In the verdict of a trial that divided national opinion over the meaning of freedom of speech, the judge ruled that Wilders remarks were allowed in the context of public debate, although they were "gross and denigrating". Celebrating his victory, Wilders said: "In a political debate you must be able to say what you like."
The PVV party Wilders founded a decade ago expects to win a large number of seat in the upcoming parliamentary elections in March 2017, although its lead in the polls has been losing ground in recent weeks to Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).