Dutch lawmaker suspends campaigning due to security scandal

By Raf Casert, Associated Press | Posted - Feb. 23, 2017 at 9:48 a.m.


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BRUSSELS (AP) — Anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders on Thursday suspended open campaigning for next month's parliamentary election in the wake of a scandal centering on a security official who is part of a the team giving him round-the-clock protection.

Wilders was reacting to a newspaper story claiming the security official, already detained on suspicion of leaking classified information, was also suspected of infractions earlier in his career.

Wilders said in a tweet that "the news is incredibly worrisome" and added that until the situation has been cleared up his populist Party for Freedom was suspending "public activities." He had been expected to campaign again over the weekend.

Wilders has lived for more than a decade under around-the-clock protection and in anonymous safe houses following death threats. The detained officer is part of a team responsible for security around top politicians and diplomats.

The Netherlands holds its parliamentary election on March 15 and Wilders' Party of Freedom could well come out on top, even though he is likely to be kept out of any coalition government.

Despite Wilders' security concern, the government said it was safe for him to continue campaigning.

"All politicians, Geert Wilders and others, can safely get on the streets. We guarantee that," Dutch Security and Justice Minister Stef Blok told NOS network. The minister had discussed the issue with Wilders.

The extent of the breach and its impact on the tight security cordon that constantly surrounds Wilders was not immediately clear.

Wilders was convicted last year for anti-Moroccan comments and while campaigning just last weekend referred to "Moroccan scum" who commit crimes in the Netherlands. His manifesto includes closing Dutch borders to all migrants from Muslim nations, banning the Quran and shutting all mosques in the Netherlands.

The last time the Netherlands was the scene of a political murder was in 2002, when populist politician Pim Fortuyn was gunned down in a parking lot by an animal rights activist.

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Raf Casert

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