Dutch politician on trial for hate speech

Last Updated: Monday, October 4, 2010 | 8:17 AM ET

The Associated Press

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders appealed for freedom of expression Monday and then exercised his right to silence as he went on trial in Amsterdam for alleged hate speech at a time when his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all-time highs.

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders awaits the start of his trial inside the courtroom in Amsterdam on Monday. Wilders went on trial for alleged hate speech as his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all-time highs. (Marcel Antonisse/Associated Press)

Prosecutors say Wilders incited hatred against Muslims with remarks comparing Islam to Nazism and by calling for a ban on the Qur’an. Wilders argues he has a right to freedom of speech and his remarks were within the bounds of the law.

“I am a suspect here because I have expressed my opinion as a representative of the people,” Wilders told judges at the start of the trial.

“Formally I’m on trial here today, but with me, the freedom of expression of many, many Dutch people is also being judged,” he said, referring to more than 1.4 million voters who made his party the country’s third-largest in June elections.

If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail, though a fine would be more likely. He could keep his seat in parliament regardless of the outcome.

In his opening statement, Wilders refused to answer any questions from judges.

When presiding judge Jan Moors said it appeared Wilders was “avoiding discussion” Wilders’s lawyer Bram Moszkowicz said that showed Moors is biased and moved to have him substituted.

The move will delay the trial for at least several hours while a separate panel considers the request.

Wilders swept into the Amsterdam District Court complex in a police convoy and waved to supporters as he walked into the courtroom at the start of a trial scheduled to last seven days.

Wilders’s party has agreed to support a new conservative Dutch government likely to take office this month. In return, his political allies have promised to carry out much of his anti-immigration agenda.

The Wilders-supported government to be installed as early as this week intends new measures to reduce acceptance of asylum-seekers and cut immigration from non-Western countries in half, notably by making it difficult for foreign spouses or children to join families that have already immigrated and become Dutch citizens.

It also plans to force new immigrants to pay for their own mandatory citizenship classes.

Immigration-related issues have dominated politics in the Netherlands and much of Europe over the past decade. Wilders has drawn comparisons with populists such as the late Jorg Haider in Austria and Jean-Marie Le Pen in France.

His stances resound deeply with many Dutch voters, who have reconsidered their famous tolerance amid fears their own culture is being eroded by immigrants who don’t share their values. Around six per cent of the Dutch population is now Muslim.

Among Wilders’s many remarks at issue in the trial is an editorial he wrote in the De Volkskrant newspaper.

“I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” he wrote in the paper. “I’ve had enough of the Qur’an in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book.”

Called for clothing tax

The flamboyant bleach-blond politician has also called for taxing clothing commonly worn by Muslims, such as headscarves — or “head rags,” as he called them — because they “pollute” the Dutch landscape.

He may be best known for the 2008 short film Fitna, which offended Muslims around the world by juxtaposing verses from the Qur’an with images of terrorism by Islamic radicals.

In a sign of the emotions at stake in Wilders’s political rise, Nazism is invoked on both sides of the issue. Wilders compares the growth of Islam influences in the Netherlands to the rise of Nazi ideology, while Wilders’s critics say his anti-foreigner rhetoric is reminiscent of Hitler.

A handful of anti-Wilders protesters gathered outside the court behind a banner reading “fascism rules,” with a Dutch pun on Wilders’s name.

Mohamed Rabbae, chairman of the moderate National Moroccan Council, said outside the court that he hoped judges would force Wilders to issue an apology for his past remarks.

“We are not for getting Mr. Wilders in prison. We are for correcting him,” he said.

The case has generated huge interest in the Netherlands and the opening was broadcast live on television.

Convictions for discriminatory remarks are frequent in the Netherlands, but penalties are rarely greater than a small fine.

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  1. Waaah! So called civilised , progressive, developed West holding Kangaroo Court! SHAME!
    This is what happens when a nation allows its Leftards and Liberals in power. The left’s vision was fueled by the philosophy of Jean Jacques Rousseau, author of the noble savage fantasy of human nature – whereby human nature is naturally good, but made bad by civilisation, by the very creations of man. This vision was to be imposed by force through a centralised and impulsive government power.

    They have pursued policies on the deliberate refusal to read islamic history and disregard Europe’s suffering of 300 years of warring with islamics. And without looking for confirmation whether those policies have a beneficial effect and the consequences.
    They are sloppy and rude when it comes to diplomacy and etiquette. When the millions of Dutch who are fed up with current government’s incompetence and servility to muslims demands, and who express their displeasure, all they know to do is to attack.
    And conduct Kangaroo Court hearings. What a farce!

    As I comment on other blogs, it is the West that is to Blame for Islamisation of their country. How many pieces of silver ended in the politicians pockets as they sold both country and people . It is the Left’s Utopia. Come WWIII, hunt every one of these traitors and eliminate them.
    Jeez, am I glad I’m in the Orient.

    • QV, you’ll never hear an argument from me on the matter..My sister is only in here early 20’s with 2 little boys, and she is now becoming aware of what a “leftard” is. And she’s as appalled with them as I am and she’s scared because she knows the fighting in the streets will happen with her children and grandchildren all because of the left insistance that everyone stay in the self imposed ignorance they themselves bask in.

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