Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

US groups helped fund Dutch anti-Islam campaigner Wilders

Philadelphia think tank funded Mr Wilders' case in 2010 and again last year against charges of inciting racial hatred.

AMSTERDAM / NEW YORK // Anti-Islam groups in the United States have provided financial support to Geert Wilders, a Dutch anti-immigration campaigner who is seeking re-election to his country's parliament this week.

While the support is not illegal in the Netherlands, it sheds light on the international connections of Mr Wilders, whose Freedom Party is the least transparent Dutch parliamentary group and a rallying point for Europe's far right.

Mr Wilders' party is self-funded, unlike other Dutch parties that are subsidised by the government. It does not, therefore, have to meet the same disclosure requirements.

Groups in the US seeking to counter Islamic influence in the West said that they funded police protection and paid legal costs for Mr Wilders, whose party is in fourth place in opinion polls before tomorrow's election.

Mr Wilders' ideas - a halt to non-western immigration and bans on Muslim headscarves and the construction of mosques - have struck a chord in mainstream politics beyond the Netherlands.

France banned clothing that covers the face in April last year and Belgium followed suit a few months later. Switzerland barred the construction of minarets in a referendum in 2009.

The Middle East Forum, a pro-Israeli think tank based in Philadelphia, funded Mr Wilders' legal defence in 2010 and last year against Dutch charges of inciting racial hatred, said its director, Daniel Pipes. The Middle East Forum has a stated goal, according to its website, of protecting the "freedom of public speech of anti-Islamist authors, promoting American interests in the Middle East and protecting the constitutional order from Middle Eastern threats". It sent money directly to Mr Wilders' lawyer via its Legal Project, Mr Pipes said.

Represented by the Dutch criminal lawyer, Bram Moscowitz, Mr Wilders successfully defended himself against the charges, which were brought by prosecutors in Amsterdam on behalf of groups representing minorities from Turkey, Morocco and other countries with significant Muslim populations. The case, heard in October 2010, was filed in response to Mr Wilders' comments in the Dutch media about Muslims and his film Fitna, which interlays images of terrorist attacks with quotations from the Quran and prompted protests by Muslims in Islamic countries worldwide. The court found he had stayed within the limits of free speech.

Mr Pipes declined to say how much his group had paid for the controversial politician's defence.

Mr Moscowitz declined to discuss payments for Mr Wilder's defence, citing client confidentiality.

Mr Wilders said that his legal expenses were paid for with the help of donations from defenders of freedom of speech. "I do not answer questions of who they are and what they have paid. This could jeopardise their safety," he said.

Mr Wilders, 49, became a member of Dutch parliament in 2006, campaigning against Islam, which he calls a threat to Dutch culture and western values. He called Islam a violent political ideology and vowed never to enter a mosque, "not in 100,000 years". His party won 24 seats in the 150-seat lower house in June 2010.

He has been under 24-hour security for eight years after receiving death threats from radical Muslim groups in the Netherlands and abroad. The Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik cited anti-Islamic comments by Mr Wilders in an online manifesto that sought to justify his crimes. Mr Wilders has denounced Mr Breivik and his actions.

David Horowitz, who runs a network of Los Angeles-based conservative groups and a website called FrontPage magazine, said he paid Mr Wilders fees for making two speeches, security costs during student protests and overnight accommodation for his Dutch bodyguards during a 2009 trip to the United States.

Mr Horowitz said he paid Mr Wilders for one speech in Los Angeles and one at Temple University in Philadelphia. He declined to specify the amounts, but said that Mr Wilders had received "a good fee". When Mr Wilders' Philadelphia appearance sparked student protests, Mr Horowitz said, he paid a special security fee of about $1,500 (Dh5,510) to the Philadelphia police department. Mr Horowitz said he also paid for overnight accommodation for four or five Dutch government bodyguards accompanying Mr Wilders on the trip.

Mr Wilders said in response: "I am frequently asked to speak abroad. Whenever possible I accept these invitations. I never ask for a fee. However, sometimes the travel and accommodation expenses are paid. My personal security is always paid for by the Dutch government."

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greeted by university students as he leaves Sistan University in Sistan and Baluchestan’s provincial capital of Zahedan on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

In Iran’s most troubled province, Rouhani hears pleas for change

Hassan Rounani aims to connect with residents of far-flung Sistan and Baluchestan province.

 Prince Bandar bin Sultan in Riyadh on March 3, 2007. Hassan Ammar / AFP Photo

Saudi Prince Bandar promised a victory he could not deliver

Saudi Arabia's controversial intelligence chief stepped down this week after rumours that his policies on Syria had fallen out of favour.

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish spiritual leader Fethullah Gulen. AFP Photo

The inner workings of Gulen’s ‘parallel state’

Fethullah Gulen's followers are accused of trying to push Turkey's prime minister from power.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National