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Strache defends inviting Wilders to Hofburg

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Strache defends inviting Wilders to Hofburg
Geert Wilders. Photo: EPA/EVERT-JAN DANIELS
12:29 CET+01:00
The leader of Austria's populist Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, has defended his invitation to the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders to speak in Vienna, saying that he is an “interesting European politician”.

The FPÖ plans to hold a joint event with Wilders on “the threat to Europe through Islamisation” at Vienna’s Hofburg Palace on March 27th. Strache said it was an important topic that needed to be discussed and had nothing to do with Islamophobia but was about promoting western, democratic values.

Wilders, who leads the Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV), has often expressed his distaste for Islam and mass immigration. He is due to be prosecuted in his own country after leading an anti-Moroccan chant during election campaigning last year in The Hague.

Strache told the Austria Press Agency that Wilders had been acquitted of similar charges in the past, and said he was confident that he would be cleared.  

Austria’s Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the Green Party expressed outrage that Strache should invite Wilders to the Hofburg.

SPÖ party secretary Georg Niedermühlbichler said that the event was nothing more than "Islamophobic propaganda" and added that it was outrageous that it should be allowed to take place in the Hofburg.

Green politicians Albert Steinhauser and Harald Walser said in a press release that it was "completely unacceptable" that the imperial palace should become “a marching ground for right-wing extremists".

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