Leak sparks security scare for anti-Islam Dutch MP

2017-02-22 22:25
Geert Wilders (AFP, File)

Geert Wilders (AFP, File)

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The Hague - A security scare over the safety of outspoken far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders emerged on Wednesday just three weeks before an election, after a police agent was arrested for leaking information about him to a Moroccan gang.

Wilders, who has courted controversy with his hardline anti-Islam, anti-immigrant stance and his incendiary insults against Moroccans and Turks, has long been under 24-hour police protection.

But tensions are escalating ahead of the March 15 election in which the MP's Freedom Party is running neck-and-neck with the Liberals of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

On Saturday, Wilders upped the tone at the launch of his official campaign, denouncing "a lot of Moroccan scum who make the streets unsafe".

Wilders on Wednesday would not divulge details about the security issue, but said on Twitter: "It's a serious matter and fortunately it's being taken seriously by the cabinet too."

National police spokesperson Dennis Janus confirmed to AFP that an agent had been arrested on Monday suspected of "violating official secrets".

"The police together with the public prosecution service are currently investigating," Janus said, but declined to give further information.

Citing high-level police sources, the NRC daily reported that an agent had handed over information about Wilders' movements to a Moroccan-Dutch criminal organisation.

The leak was serious enough to trigger talks between Wilders and his political foe Rutte, who also refused to comment to reporters afterwards.

'It's unacceptable!'

The unnamed agent is part of the so-called "Iris team", a police squad which carries out preliminary sweeps of public spaces before appearances by politicians such as Wilders or the Dutch royal family, popular daily tabloid De Telegraaf reported.

It was not immediately clear whether the agent was directly involved in Wilders' personal protection.

But Wilders, who was last year convicted by a Dutch court of discrimination, said in a tweet: "If I cannot blindly trust the [team] that has to protect me I can't function. It's unacceptable!"

Dutch police chief Erik Akkerboom told news radio station BNR: "What we know up to now, is that [Wilders'] safety was not in question."

"This man did not belong to the so-called 'inner circle' but he did have important information and we don't want to take any risks," Akkerboom said.

Political violence 

The Netherlands is no stranger to political violence, even though the small country of just 17 million people has largely gained a reputation for tolerance.

Flamboyant far-right leader Pim Fortuyn was assassinated just nine days before Dutch elections in 2002, shocking the country to the core.

Just two years later in November 2004, filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim radical.

Wilders, 53, has vowed in his party's one-page manifesto that if elected he would ban the sale of Qur'ans, close mosques and Islamic schools, shut Dutch borders and ban Muslim migrants.

About 12.9 million voters are eligible to cast ballots on March 15, and although Wilders has long dominated the polls, a fresh survey on Wednesday showed Rutte's Liberal VVD had significantly narrowed the gap.

The Peilingwijzer survey showed Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV) would garner 24 to 28 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

Rutte's VVD would capture between 23 to 27 seats, said the survey, an aggregate of six different political polls in the country.

The margin of error was now so small that the two parties were virtually equal, public newscaster NOS said.

Read more on:    geert wilders  |  netherlands

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