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Geert wilders convicted of inciting discrimination

DUTCH anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders was found guilty Friday of insulting and inciting discrimination against Moroccans, a conviction he immediately slammed as a “shameful” attack on free speech and an attempt to “neutralise” him.

Presiding Judge Hendrik Steenhuis said the court would not impose a sentence because the conviction was punishment enough for a democratically elected politician.

Wilders was not in court for the verdict that came just over three months before national elections. His Party for Freedom is narrowly leading a nationwide poll of polls and has risen in popularity during the trial.

Wilders quickly released a video message, in English and Dutch, slamming the judgment and vowing to appeal.

Today, I was convicted in a political trial which, shortly before the elections, attempts to neutralise the leader of the largest and most popular opposition party, Wilders said. They will not succeed.

The politically charged prosecution centred on comments Wilders made before and after the Dutch municipal elections in 2014. At one meeting in a Hague cafe, he asked supporters whether they wanted more or fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands. That sparked a chant of Fewer! Fewer! Fewer! to which he replied, well take care of it.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte, speaking after the verdict, underscored that he and his Liberal Party would not consider forming a coalition with the Party for Freedom unless Wilders retracts the comments.

That is our stance and it remains our stance, Rutte said at his weekly press conference.

Prosecutors say that Wilders, who in 2011 was acquitted at another hate speech trial for his outspoken criticism of Islam, overstepped the limits of free speech by specifically targeting Moroccans.

He had insisted he was performing his duty as a political leader by pointing out a problem in society.

On Friday, he was convicted for the interaction with the crowd of supporters in the Hague cafe, which judges said was carefully orchestrated and broadcast on national television. He was acquitted for similar comments he made in a radio interview a week earlier, which the judges said did not amount to inciting hatred.

Steenhuis stressed that freedom of expression was not on trial. Freedom of speech is one of the foundations of our democratic society, the judge said. But he added: Freedom of speech can be limited, for example to protect the rights and freedoms of others, and that is what this case is about.

Abdou Menebhi, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Center for Migration and Development, welcomed the judgment. For us, its a very important verdict, he told The Associated Press. This gives the Moroccans who felt like victims a renewed belief in a democratic society.

He said it also sent a message to Wilders supporters. This man is not looking for solutions for you, Menebhi said. His is an ideology of smearing Europe, migrants, Muslims, without offering alternatives.

Heres why picking investment winners is tricky

TRYING to pick the next big investment winner can feel like having a go at a lucky dip — and with good reason.

A new analysis of nine major asset classes over the last 10 years shows that all but one cash has claimed the title of the years best investment at least once.

Vanguard Australias 2016 Index Chart shows that since 2007 Aussie shares have topped the table only once, a 30 per cent jump in 2007 just before the Global Financial Crisis, while US shares and international bonds have been winners twice. Last financial year, Australian property trusts did the best with a 24.6 per cent gain.

Vanguard Australia head of market strategy Robin Bowerman says the numbers highlight the value of diversification.

It shows how hard it is to time markets to pick next years winning asset class, he says.

Its difficult for people to accept that there isnt some secret formula that lets you invest in things before they go up.

If you accept the fact that you cant predict markets, thats why you diversify, placing a lot of bets across the whole market.

The Vanguard data shows that cash has been the worst investment class for three of the past 10 years, and in the last three years its annual investment returns have failed to eclipse 2.8 per cent.

However, cash remains popular among Aussie investors because its the only asset that comes with the safety of a Federal Government guarantee on bank deposits.

We also have had pretty volatile markets, which feeds into people saying Im not sure, so I will keep my money parked in cash, Bowerman says.

Despite low official interest rates in Australia and overseas over the past decade, buying bonds has been the best move for three of 10 years. In 2008 and 2009 it was international bonds and in 2012 Australian bonds chimed in with a 12.4 per cent gain.

In Australia we dont appreciate the value of fixed income, Bowerman says. He says the rise of exchange traded funds in recent years gives investors better access to bonds both government and higher-yielding corporate bonds.

Financial strategist Theo Marinis says the key message for any investor is diversify, diversify, diversify.

Nobodys got a crystal ball and you cant predict what asset class is going to perform best next, he says.

Marinis says quite often, one years best investment performer drops off the next year to rebalance the scales, highlighting the benefit of diversification.

You wont shoot the lights out but you wont blow up your portfolio either, he says.

Vanguards analysis tracks asset class performance over 30 years. It found that a $10,000 investment in 1986 in Australian shares has grown to $154,405, while the same amount in cash would be worth $75,023 inflated by 15 per cent-plus interest rates paid on deposits in the late 1980s.

Diversifying across multiple asset classes allows investors to take advantage of growth on several fronts, while providing some safe harbours against unexpected risks and market corrections, Bowerman says.