Strong reactions to Wilders guilty verdict on inciting racial discrimination

Asscher becomes new leader of PvdA Labour party

Strong reactions have erupted after far-right wing politician Geert Wilders was found guilty of inciting racial discrimination against Dutch Moroccans in a court on Friday. Wilders was condemned for his actions leading a PVV party rally calling for 'fewer, fewer' Moroccans in March 2014 – and now has a criminal record – but he received no punishment from the three judges. The leader of the PVV, currently leading in some polls prior to general elections in March, did not attend most of the trial or verdict. But he frequently tweeted about hearings in what he called the 'fake court' – conduct the judge said was 'unworthy' of a politician. Wilders’ laywer, Geert-Jan Knoops, immediately issued a statement to say he would appeal, and within an hour of the verdict, Wilders posted a YouTube video saying: 'The Netherlands has become a sick country. The judge who convicted me [has] restricted the freedom of speech for millions of Dutch.' Rutte: retract speech But prime minister Mark Rutte told his weekly Friday press conference that 'The Netherlands is not sick…[but] a constitutional democracy', according to NOS broadcaster. He added, reported the Telegraaf, that his Liberal VVD party will not work with the PVV in a new government unless Wilders withdraws his 'fewer Moroccans' statements. The criminal court case was based on almost 6,500 official complaints after Wilders asked a televised party rally in The Hague on 19th March 2014 if there should be 'more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands'. The court heard that a pre-arranged chant of 'fewer, fewer' had been seeded through the crowd. 'It doesn’t matter that Wilders gave another message afterwards [saying he was referring only to criminal Moroccans and benefits claimants],' said the judge. 'The message that evening from the podium, via the media, was loud and proud and did its work…The group was collectively dismissed as inferior to other Dutch people.' Legal experts Some experts told the Volkskrant that giving a sentence without a punishment could be counterproductive. Afshin Ellian, a professor of jurisprudence said: 'If you think he needed to be prosecuted, and proved the offences, you should also impose a penalty…This shows that the whole Wilders case is a parody of the criminal justice system.' Paul Cliteur, professor of jurisprudence at Leiden University who was called as an expert witness, said: 'It would have been better if the Dutch state had sent a clear signal [to terrorists] via a Dutch court that we foster a broad notion of the freedom of expression in the Netherlands. Wilders now has a criminal record, and has all the hassle of countries that do not allow him entry.' At the court itself, representatives of the people whose complaints fuelled the case, were happy with the verdict – which did not award any damages and said both sides must pay their own costs. Wilders' criminal record is not thought to preclude him from being a politician but might limit his travel abroad. Unique decision Abdou Menebhi, one of the people who registered a complaint, said: 'For the first time, Wilders has been condemned for racism and discrimination: half a million people feel the threat of Wilders every day. This gives us trust in the legal process. I hope people who vote for Wilders will listen.' Michiel Pestman, lawyer for some of the complainants, said: 'It’s a unique decision. This is the first time that a court has said that minorities need special protection and even a politician should be very careful about what he says. There is a debate in the Netherlands about whether this has given Wilders free publicity, but he has to pay his lawyers.' Meanwhile Lucien Nix, a solicitor for the council of Moroccan mosques in Holland added that his clients would be discussing bringing a civil process. 'The Netherlands can take a deep breath of relief,” he added. “Moroccan Dutch people have felt robbed of their dignity and a heightened sense of discrimination. We have waited for this for a long time.' Wilders was officially charged with defaming a group and inciting racial discrimination, but was found not guilty of a charge of inciting racial hatred.   More >

Rotterdam terror suspect arrested

Terror suspect arrested in Rotterdam Police have arrested a suspected terrorist in Rotterdam, after finding a Kalashnikov AK-47 with two full magazines of ammunition in his house, the public prosecution service announced on Friday. The 30-year old was taken in on Wednesday and is suspected of preparing a terrorist crime. Police also discovered four boxes of illegal and highly-explosive fireworks, a large painting of a flag used by Islamic State (or Daesh), mobile phones and 1,600 euros in cash. The suspect was brought before a magistrate in Rotterdam on Friday and is being held in custody for two weeks.  More >

Website to help trace art stolen in WWII

Website launched to help track down artworks stolen in World War II A website has been launched to help people track down works of art that were stolen during the Second World War. The site, Herkomst Gezocht or Origins Unknown, will allow users to search 14,000 documents containing details of works that went missing under the Nazi occupation. Until now anyone trying to use the documents to identify missing artworks could only do so by hand, a laborious and time-consuming process. 'Now everything is on the internet and you can use search terms,' art expert Rudi Ekkart told NOS. Paintings make up around half the total list, while another 1,000 items are sketches. Ceramics and furniture also feature strongly, alongside items of silver and musical instruments. 'It's not just interesting for researchers and art dealers,' said Ekkart. 'Anyone can see if their family's name is in it. In many families people didn't talk about the war, so people often don't know if grandma or grandpa reported missing works of art.' You can visit the website at  More >

Fewer cars for under-30s and city dwellers

Under-30s and city dwellers less likely to own cars People in Amsterdam are least likely to own a car according to national statistics office, the CBS. By contrast, residents of Staphorst (Overijssel) are most likely to drive, with 1.4 cars for every home on average, compared with Amsterdam's 0.4. The figures, provided by the Netherlands Vehicle Authority (RWD), also show that car ownership is rising across the country. CBS economist Hein van Mulligen said the lower rate of car ownership in towns partly reflected the ageing population. The lower average income in urban areas is also a factor. ‘The number of over-60s is growing and they often have a car and always had one,' Van Mulligen told the Volkskrant. 'They only stop driving when they are unable to continue. They also have more money than 30 years ago and can easily afford more than one car.’ Car ownership in the Netherlands is increasing, despite talk of European taxes and carbon emissions pledges. By the end of 2015, there were about 7.2 million private cars registered, 1% up from the previous year, and mainly due to more older drivers. Twenty-somethings tend to move to towns, where cars are less essential, said the CBS. ‘It’s expensive to run a car in a city,' said Van Mulligen. 'Parking is expensive and there is good public transport in place. In the country public transport is much less efficient, while shops and people’s place of work may be quite a long way off.'  More >

Asscher wins PvdA leadership contest

Asscher becomes new leader of PvdA Labour party Lodewijk Asscher has become the new leader of the PvdA Labour party, reports NOS on Friday. He won a party membership vote over the current leader Diederik Samsom, with 54.5% of the votes, to 45.5%. The win was announced at a meeting in Amsterdam West. An “emotional” Samson said he had been honoured to be the party leader, and will also give up his leadership of the Labour party group in the Dutch parliament on Monday. Currently, slumping Labour party support in the polls would result in between 11 and 13 seats in the general election next March. It currently has 35.  More >