THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Firebrand Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders says he will not attend court next week to face hate speech charges, calling the case against him "a political trial."
Prosecutors have charged Wilders, leader of the populist Dutch Freedom Party, with insulting a group based on their race and inciting hatred and discrimination.
In a message released Friday, Wilders says, "It is my right and my duty as a politician to speak about the problems in our country."
The trial starting Monday against Wilders, who was acquitted in 2011 of insulting Islam, centers on comments before and after 2014 Dutch elections. At one meeting he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands, sparking a chant of "Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!"
"We'll take care of it," he replied.