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(Reuters) – Dutch populist politician Geert Wilders was acquitted of inciting hatred of Muslims in a court ruling on Thursday.

The case was seen by some as a test of free speech in a country which has a long tradition of tolerance and blunt talk, but where opposition to immigration, particularly from Muslim or predominantly Muslim countries, is on the rise.

The presiding judge said Wilders’s remarks were sometimes “hurtful,” “shocking” or “offensive,” but that they were made in the context of a public debate about Muslim integration and multi-culturalism, and therefore not a criminal act.

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