Austria Investigating Geert Wilders Over Incitement

Geert Wilders - AP - Cynthia Boll
AP Photo/Cynthia Boll

VIENNA, July 28 (Reuters) – Austria is investigating Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders on suspicion of incitement of hatred at an event in Vienna he attended at the invitation of prominent Austrian far-right politician Heinz-Christian Strache.

Wilders, whose party has been at or near the top of polls in the Netherlands for years, is under another investigation for alleged discrimination and incitement of hatred against Moroccans during a campaign rally in The Hague last year.

He was acquitted of hate speech in a 2007 trial after making similar remarks critical of Islam. Other past targets of his populist ire have included East European migrant workers and the European Union.

A spokeswoman for the Vienna prosecutors’ office said an investigation against Wilders was under way but declined to give details, including what he was alleged to have said in a speech that prompted the inquiry.

Wilders spoke at a meeting in March of Strache’s far-right Freedom Party, which attracted a 30 percent approval rating in a recent opinion poll — ahead of the two governing centrist coalition parties.

Known for his trademark shock of bleach-blond hair, Wilders is currently running second in Dutch election polls, riding a wave of resentment against immigration in the Netherlands, once seen as an example of multicultural tolerance.

Wilders has said the West is “at war” with Islam and has been the target of death threats that have forced him to live under 24-hour police protection.

Strache and Wilders’ parties along with other far-right European parties formed a common bloc in the European Parliament last month.

(Reporting by Christoph Steitz, Thomas Escritt and Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Mark Heinrich)


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