Prosecutors in the Netherlands can move ahead with charges of hate speech lodged against right-wing politician Geert Wilders for his perceived anti-Muslim remarks, a Dutch court ruled Friday.
Wilders and his lawyers asked judges during a preliminary hearing last month to throw out the charges, calling the prosecution a politically motivated witch hunt aimed at hurting him in the March election.
In his ruling, however, a judge at The Hague district court rejected Wilders’ claims, saying the prosecution will "not affect his political freedoms or that of his Freedom Party."
"The court rejects all the defense’s objections," Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said.
The case against Wilders stems from comments he made during a 2014 campaign rally in The Hague, in which he asked audience members whether they wanted fewer or more Moroccan immigrants to enter the Netherlands.
The crowd chanted back at Wilders, "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!" Wilders responded: "We’re going to organize that."
Wilders’ lawyers say that his words were just part of his political platform and that moving forward with the prosecution could have a chilling effect on political discussion in the Netherlands.
The trial is scheduled to start October 31.