A couple of days ago I posted the latest news from the Netherlands about the show trial of Geert Wilders. Our Dutch correspondent H. Numan sends this summary of the larger context of the case, and the political significance of the railroading of Geert Wilders.
The dilemma of the Wilders trial
by H. Numan
The Baron just beat me to it: I was planning to write about the Wilders trial. Well, I guess he doesn’t need me anymore… (just kidding). There are a few angles you really need to know about concerning the Wilders trial. The elites are digging their graves deeper and deeper.
First of all — and most important — are the legal consequences of that guilty verdict, the jurisprudence. Imagine you have a very large bookshelf, from wall to wall. Only one shelf contains all the books of law, with plenty of space left over. The remainder of that entire bookshelf is filled with jurisprudence. And that actually is the real law.
Lawmakers (parliament) create the law. They set the minimum and maximum requirements. The courts interpret it. Each and every verdict explains how the law should be understood and applied. Verdicts of lower courts can be overruled by higher courts, which creates new jurisprudence.
Wilders is the de facto the leader of the opposition. His important position is the reason for the court’s verdict. Yes, they dearly wanted to sentence him to the maximum possible, and then some more. But they can’t. Geert Wilders is far too important. Supposing they were to have sent him to jail, that would make him immediately a martyr. He would happily go to jail, knowing full well he won’t be staying long and upon release becomes the next prime minister.
So doing jail time was out. Next best option was a fine. The prosecution asked for a fine of €5,000. I wish I had that kind of money, but Wilders makes at least four times that in a month. This would also create an outcry among the electorate. Wilders would pay the fine with a smile, knowing that the cost of this kind of advertising is invaluable. It would be a free advertising campaign worth millions for just €5,000. Again, not a good idea. What was left over?
Guilty without punishment. That’s the court equivalent of take two paracetamol and call me in the morning. Or so it seems. In real life it’s a slow-working deadly poison, especially in this case. Wilders would go free, but only him. Anyone else can be convicted based on that flimsy jurisprudence. What’s more, they will be convicted. And for a lot more than €5,000. Because there is a precedent. The fact that Wilders is convicted will be a precedent. His conviction can and will be used against anyone else. Including the asked for, but not enforced, fine of €5,000. For Wilders that’s a nice investment, well worth it. For you and me it would be financially crippling.
This is a well-tried tactic of letting a big fish swim in order to catch a lot of small fry. As the precedent is there, the big fish will eventually be caught anyway. When I say ‘well-tried’, I mean it literally. The Romans used it a lot, especially during the later part of the Republic. Among others, that is how the inquisition got started. You didn’t think they popped out of nothing did you? ‘Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition’ is a Monty Python sketch. Not real life.
That’s the legal side of the Wilders trial’s dilemma. However, there is more, that being the political side of it. We haven’t got the trias politica for nothing. The separation of power is a cornerstone of democracy. It’s becoming more and more clear that this really is a political show trial, with the outcome not being reached by judges, but by civil servants and Wilders’ political enemies working together before the trial even began.