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Anti-Islam Dutch Politician Found Guilty Of Inciting Discrimination

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the most prominent far-right politicians in Europe has been convicted of, quote, "inciting discrimination" against Dutch Moroccans. His name is Geert Wilders, and he's been an outspoken critic of Europe's immigration policies, especially in his own country, the Netherlands, and has adapted Donald Trump's campaign slogan for his own purposes. Make the Netherlands great again. Joining us now for more details on this is Saskia Belleman. She's a reporter for the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. Thanks so much for being with us, Saskia.

SASKIA BELLEMAN: Good morning.

MARTIN: What more can you tell us about the charges that Geert Wilders was found guilty of?

BELLEMAN: The court said today that a politician is not above the law. They said that he has behaved discriminatory. He has insulted a group of people and has singled out Moroccan people. He didn't say he meant criminal Moroccans. He just said Moroccans. Do we want more or less Moroccans? And he made the public, his audience, scream less, less, less. So he incited discrimination. He did not incite hatred, said a court today.

MARTIN: And so they saw a distinction there. They didn't go as far - that would have been a more serious charge.

BELLEMAN: It would have been heavier, yes. So he was not convicted for inciting hatred, but he was convicted for inciting discrimination and for insulting a group of people.

MARTIN: And he didn't - there wasn't a fine or any jail term associated with this.

BELLEMAN: No, that's because the court said that convicting a politician is severe enough. They said, of course, we could give him a fine, but this is severe enough. We've given a signal what you can say or not say in the Netherlands, especially a politician. So it's not necessary to give him a fine as well.

MARTIN: Can you talk about Wilders' connection to President-elect Donald Trump? Does he see a political kinship there? Because we should note Wilders did attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this past summer.

BELLEMAN: Yeah. I don't know exactly how he's connected to Donald Trump. I do know that he always supports Trump's remarks about Mexicans. He thinks that Trump wants to have America for the Americans just like Wilders wants Netherlands for the people from the Netherlands. And he sees a lot of refugees and people from other countries with other values as a threat to the culture in the Netherlands. And in that respect, he is a bit the same as Donald Trump.

MARTIN: Wilders' party, his political party, is one of several far-right parties that have been riding this sort of wave of populism in Europe.

BELLEMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: How does his conviction play into that do you think? Does it - does it embolden him in some way? Does it put him on the defensive and those groups?

BELLEMAN: Well, he has already said that he's going to ignore the verdict. He says I'm not going to be shut up. They have to kill me before I stop saying these things. He was not present at the courthouse today, but he did mingle in it via Twitter. He twittered a lot. He says that the judges are not objective, that they hate his party and his political opinions. And that's why he's being convicted. That's what he said. The judges, of course, were a bit angry. You can read that in the verdict. They said we haven't convicted him because we have personal opinions about his party or his political opinions. We convicted him because he has misused the freedom of speech, and even a politician should abide by the law and shouldn't break it.

MARTIN: Saskia Belleman is a reporter for the Dutch paper De Telegraaf. Thanks so much.

BELLEMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.