Geert Wilders, the Dutch anti-Islam opposition leader, said on Friday that he refuses to attend his trial next week and that he sees it as politically motivated.
Wilders is accused of discrimination and inciting racism in remarks made on live television in 2014 when he led a roomful of people chanting that they wanted fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands.
Dutch politicians are limbering up to campaign for elections on March 15, with opinion polls indicating that Wilders’ Freedom Party is now neck-and-neck with the VVD Party of conservativeDutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
“Next Monday, the trial against freedom of speech begins. Against a politician who says what the politically correct elite does not want to hear,” Wilders wrote in a statement. “This trial is a political trial, in which I refuse to cooperate.”
Wilders faces a fine of up to 7,400 euros ($8,100) and a year in jail for the remarks, made during campaigning in local elections, which also included calling Moroccans “scum”.
“It is a travesty that I have to stand trial because I spoke about fewer Moroccans. It is my right and my duty as a politician to speak about the problems in our country,” he wrote.
In 2011, Wilders was acquitted of inciting racial hatred for calling for the Koran to be banned and for the deportation of “criminal” Moroccans.
Judges said at the time that his remarks, while offensive to some, were within the bounds of legitimate political discourse.
Legal experts believe prosecutors have a stronger case this time because he targeted a specific social group, rather than a religion.