(photo credit: Associated Press)
The hate speech trial of politician Geert Wilders has resumed with judges viewing his anti-Islam film "Fitna," which juxtaposes Koranic verses and images of violence, and offended many Muslims worldwide when it was released in 2008.
Wilders is charged with inciting hatred against Muslims via "Fitna" and in dozens of public remarks comparing Islam to Fascism, calling for a ban on Muslim immigration and for a ban on the Koran. 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 Koran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book."
Wilders argued on Monday that he has a right to freedom of speech and that 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, Wilders 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 was adjourned until Tuesday shortly after Wilders' opening remarks, when he declined to answer any questions from the three judges, invoking his right to remain silent.
Presiding judge Jan Moors said Wilders is known for making bold statements but avoiding discussions, and added that "it appears you're doing so again."
Wilders' lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, said the remark showed Moors is biased against Wilders and moved to have him substituted.
However, the Amsterdam District Court rejected Wilders' arguments that
judges in his case were biased. A review panel ruled Tuesday there was
little evidence judges were biased and ordered the trial to resume
Earlier in the week, the Dutch Christian Democrat Party voted to
cooperate with Wilder's anti-Islam Freedom Party and join a minority
cabinet led by the pro-business VVD party.
Wilder's party rose from nine seats to 24 in recent elections,
underscoring a further shift from the Netherlands' long-held image as a
bastion of tolerance that welcomes newcomers. Wilders said he hoped that
by toughening immigration regulations, the new government would slash
the number of asylum seekers getting into the Netherlands by one quarter
and reduce by half what he called “non-Western immigrants.”