Netherlands: Wilders trial begins

Netherlands: Wilders trial begins

Geert Wilders, the far-right MP who likens the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, goes on trial today in a politically charged test of the limits of tolerance and free speech in the Netherlands.

Mr Wilders, 46, leader of the Freedom Party, is charged with incitement and discrimination against Muslims over his outspoken comments attacking Islam and for his film, Fitna, which juxtaposed images of 9/11 and beheadings with verses of the Koran. He has called the Koran “a fascist book” and described Islamic culture as retarded.

Mr Wilders, who has made no secret of his ambition to become Prime Minister, has called his indictment a political trial but the Amsterdam Court of Appeal decided that it was in the public interest to prosecute him because his comments have been “so insulting to Muslims”.

“I am being prosecuted for my political convictions,” Mr Wilders said this week.

“The freedom of speech is on the verge of collapsing,” Mr Wilders added. “If a politician is not allowed to criticise an ideology anymore this means that we are lost, and it will lead to the end of our freedom. However, I remain combative: I am convinced that I will be acquitted.”

Mr Wilders has received numerous death threats for his campaign against the “Islamisation of our societies” views but has built a large following by exploiting a backlash against relaxed Dutch immigration policies, vowing to close Holland’s borders if he comes to power.

“My supporters say, ‘At last there is someone who dares to say what millions of people think’. That is what I do.” Today’s hearing in Amsterdam district court is a formal opening session to determine who will be called as witnesses and whether they will all be heard in public.

A spokeswoman for the Public Prosecution Office said that the demand for the case came from a variety of individuals and organisations which complained about comments made by Mr Wilders.

“The Court of Appeal determined that statements equating Islam to Nazism were a punishable insult to Islamic worshippers and therefore constituted ground for criminal prosecution,” she said.


Source: The Times

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