h1

Geert Wilders Trial Update

January 20, 2010

IN

Dutch far-right MP on trial over anti-Islam remarks

Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:24pm IST

By Aaron Gray-Block

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders said on Wednesday that freedom of speech in his country was threatened, as he went on trial in Amsterdam charged with inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

The Freedom Party leader, who has faced death threats over his political views, made the film “Fitna” in 2008 which accused the Koran of inciting violence and mixed images of terrorist attacks with quotations from the Islamic holy book.

He was also charged because of his outspoken remarks in the media, such as an opinion piece in a Dutch daily in which he compared Islam to fascism and the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf”.

“I believe in my heart and soul that freedom in the Netherlands is being threatened,” Wilders told the court. “It is not only our right, but our obligation as free people to speak out against every ideology that restricts freedom.”

In a five-minute speech to the court in which he also quoted Thomas Jefferson, author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Wilders predicted future generations would ask how “we in 2010, in this place, in this room” defended freedom.

The prosecutor, reacting to the many complaints about Wilders, originally said he was protected by the right to free speech, but a court overruled him and ordered that Wilders be charged. The MP faces a maximum of one year and three months imprisonment if convicted on both counts.

Both prosecution and defence said the case lies at the heart of the constitutional state, exploring the line between the right to freedom of speech and the ban on discrimination in the traditionally tolerant Netherlands.

Defence lawyer Bram Moszkowicz challenged the court’s jurisdiction and the prosecution’s case, saying that the Supreme Court should handle the case because Wilders was a politician.

“Wilders has made all his comments in his capacity as a member of parliament,” Moszkowicz said, adding that Wilders had the right to comment on developments in society.

Prosecutor Birgit van Roessel said Wilders’ remarks must be tested against the “existing legal framework.”

COMBATIVE

A fierce opponent of Islam in European culture, Wilders — with his trademark blonde hair — is popular among Dutch voters worried about immigration and its impact on Dutch society.

The Freedom Party became the second-largest Dutch party in the European Parliament last year, and recent polls indicated it could become the biggest party in the Dutch parliament in national elections due in May 2011.

“I remain combative and still convinced that this political process will only lead to an acquittal,” Wilders has said.

Outside the court, a crowd of protesters gathered behind police barriers to voice support for Wilders, carrying banners saying “Freedom Yes” and “Wilders trial, a political trial”.

An anti-racism group placed 100 comments by Wilders online at http://www.watwilwilders.nl to back its allegation that he is responsible for xenophobia and discrimination and that his remarks are not only criticism of a religion.

Official figures show Muslims made up about 5 percent of the Dutch population in 2007-08.

The court must now rule on the challenge to its jurisdiction and adjourned the case to Feb. 3 when it will decide how to proceed.

Besides expert witnesses, Moszkowicz plans to call Mohammed Bouyeri, the convicted killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Wilders has said Bouyeri is “living proof” that Islam inspires violence, but the prosecution is opposed to Bouyeri giving evidence.

(Additional reporting by Svebor Kranjc and Ben Berkowitz; editing by Tim Pearce)

© Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.

Thomson Reuters journalists are subject to an Editorial Handbook which requires fair presentation and disclosure of relevant interests.

// // 0)
{
_org=”Reuters”;
Rapt_Track(“z=india.reuters.com/printer/article,as=” + raptAs);
}
// ]]> // //

DCSIMG

// printer > article”);
I07714.DM_tag();
// ]]>

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: