Dutch police are investigating whether the rightwing populist leader Thierry Baudet committed a criminal offence when he falsely claimed that two close female friends had been “seriously harassed by four Moroccans on a train”.
The founder of the Netherlands’ anti-immigration Forum for Democracy (FvD) party, one of several European far-right and nationalist leaders due to speak on Tuesday at a gathering in Rome, tweeted about the incident on Friday evening.
“Filing a complaint is of course totally pointless,” Baudet, a flamboyant former academic and columnist, tweeted. “Oh dear, childishly naive Dutch people! Vote now finally for change. Break free of this politically correct nonsense! Save this country. #FVD”
After several passengers on the train refuted his version of events on social media, the Dutch national rail operator NS said the men in a photo Baudet subsequently posted to his Instagram account were three ticket inspectors and a police officer.
As is common practice to avoid people dodging checks, none were wearing uniform, the operator said. It said the women did not initially believe that the men were NS employees so refused to show their tickets, prompting them to identify themselves and call the police officer.
A company spokesman added that the episode was “not a noteworthy incident” and that its employees had behaved entirely correctly. A police spokesman said charges could be pressed if it was concluded an offence had been committed.
Several parliamentarians called on Baudet to apologise. “If you have Moroccan blood flowing through your veins, Thierry Baudet sees you as a potential criminal, despite your Dutch heart,” said the centre-right VVD MP Zohair el Yassini.
The anti-racist Denk party has demanded a debate on the consequences of politicians spreading “lies and hateful tweets” and the GreenLeft party leader Jesse Klaver said Baudet’s behaviour was “what the far right does – sling racist mud into the world”.
After refusing to answer questions about the incident over the weekend, Baudet said on his Facebook page on Monday that the women had suffered “intimidating verbal and non-verbal behaviour” that left them feeling “very unsafe during the remainder of the train journey and during the walk home”.
He conceded, however, that he had responded “too quickly and too firmly. In doing so, I put the issue too hastily into a broader political context: the consequences of mass immigration, integration problems and the lack of security many Dutch people see and experience every day.”
Eurosceptic, nationalist and anti-immigration, FvD won two seats in parliament in the 2017 general election and shocked observers by collecting the highest number of seats in provincial polls two years later. It then fell back sharply in European elections.