Court orders hate speech trial of Dutch anti-Islam politician to resume

By Toby Sterling, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Dutch politician hate speech trial to resume

AMSTERDAM — An Amsterdam court Tuesday ordered the hate speech trial of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders to resume, rejecting his arguments that judges are biased against him.

Wilders, who is enmeshed in negotiations to help form a new conservative government in the Netherlands, faces charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.

In one opinion piece he wrote, “I’ve had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate,” adding “I’ve had enough of the Quran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book.”

His case raises questions of the limits of freedom of speech and whether the statements go so far that they damage Muslims’ right to practice their religion freely and in peace.

At the start of his trial Monday, Wilders said he speaks for more than a million Dutch voters, and he wouldn’t take back a word. He then invoked his right to remain silent and refused to answer judges’ questions.

After presiding judge Jan Moors made an apparently critical remark, Wilders demanded he be replaced.

Moors said to Wilders it appeared he was “good at making statements, but then you avoid the discussion” they cause.

Wilders objected, saying that the remark showed Moors had a negative view of him as being the kind of person who starts fires and then runs away.

A separate panel was convened to review the request for the judge’s removal.

Presiding Judge Frans Bauduin of the review panel said Moors’ remark was “unfortunately formulated” but it was standard procedure for a court to question suspects about why they choose to remain silent.

He ordered the trial to resume Wednesday.

Wilders appeared disappointed and consulted with his lawyer briefly before leaving the courtroom with a brief wave to supporters in the public gallery.

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.

The trial comes at a moment when Wilders is close to seeing many of his policy goals realized.

Wilders’ Freedom Party has agreed to support a new government set to take power with a tiny majority in parliament this month.

In return for Wilders’ support, his political allies have promised to turn away more asylum-seekers and cut immigration from nonwestern countries in half.

They also plan to force new immigrants to pay for their own mandatory citizenship classes.

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