May 18, 2018 / 4:08 PM / a year ago

Judges to be replaced in case of Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Wilders

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders appears in court for his appeal against a conviction for inciting discrimination accusing prosecutors of trying to destroy his right to free speech, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 17, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Appeals judges overseeing a discrimination case against Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders will be replaced, delaying hearings that had been due to be held this month.

The move came in response to a motion submitted by Wilders’ attorney, Geert Jan Knoops, which was granted on Friday, a day after the appeal case was opened. He had argued that the judges were not impartial.

Wilders, whose party finished second in an election last year, is the leader of the opposition in the Netherlands and one of the leading figures in Europe’s far right.

He is appealing against his 2016 conviction for inciting discrimination, over a campaign rally at which he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the country. When they chanted “Fewer! Fewer!” he replied: “We’re going to take care of that.”

The decision to replace the judges on Friday was taken by a separate three-judge panel, which said that earlier rulings by the appeals court had created an impression of not being entirely free of bias.

Prosecutors are also appealing against Wilders’ acquittal over separate charges of inciting hatred. Prosecutors have sought a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,900) but no jail time.

A verdict had been expected in July, but that will now likely be delayed as a panel of new judges is appointed.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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