Jon Henley, The Guardian, February 23, 2017
The Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders and his populist Freedom party have suspended all public campaigning for next month’s parliamentary elections following an alleged security leak.
Wilders, current frontrunner for the Netherlands’ general elections, to be held on 15 March, said on Twitter: “Very alarming news. The PVV is suspending its public activities until all facts in connection with the corruption investigation are known.”
Dutch media reported this week that a member of the far-right politician’s police security team had been arrested on suspicion of leaking details of his whereabouts to a Dutch-Moroccan criminal gang.
The Algemeen Dagblad newspaper reported on Thursday that the officer and his brother, both previously members of the Utrecht police force, had also been investigated in the past in connection with suspected leaks of confidential information.
The DBB security service, responsible for the safety of the royal family, diplomats and high-profile politicians, said the officer, of Moroccan origin, was not one of Wilders’ bodyguards but screened locations for his public appearances.
Wilders, whose platform includes banning the sale of the Qur’an, closing mosques and Islamic schools, shutting Dutch borders and banning Muslim migrants, has lived under 24-hour police protection for more than 10 years following death threats.
He was found guilty of inciting discrimination against Dutch Moroccans last December and sparked uproar at his official campaign launch on Saturday by criticising “Moroccan scum who make the streets unsafe”.
The Dutch police chief, Erik Akerboom, told Dutch radio an investigation had been opened but insisted Wilders’ safety had not been compromised, prompting the latter to reply that if he could not trust the DBB, he could “no longer function”.
The justice minister, Stef Blok, insisted Dutch politicians could “campaign safely on Dutch streets” and said the alleged leak had endangered no one. The security officer, identified as Faris K, was released on Thursday but suspended pending the investigation.
Wilders’ PVV (Party for Freedom) is running neck-and-neck with the liberal VVD (People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy) led by the prime minister, Mark Rutte. The PVV could become the Netherlands’ largest party but is likely to be shut out of government by a coalition of more mainstream parties.
Despite its reputation for calm and tolerance, the Netherlands has recently experienced shocking political violence. The flamboyant far-right leader Pim Fortuyn was shot dead by an environmental and animal rights activist, Volkert van der Graaf, just nine days before the 2002 elections. Two years later the controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh was gunned down by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Muslim radical.