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Europe
Dutch hate speech trial to proceed
Court to hear case against politician accused of inciting hatred against Muslims.
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2010 19:13 GMT
Geert Wilders has become one of the Netherlands leading politicians [AFP]

A Dutch court has agreed to hear a case against a far-right politician accused of inciting racial hatred and discrimination against Muslims.

The court overruled objections by Geert Wilders that it did not have jurisdiction to hear his case, in which he cited parliamentary privilege.

"Parliamentary immunity does not extend to what a public representative says or writes outside of parliamentary gatherings," Jan Moors, judge at the Amsterdam court, said on Wednesday.

The 46-year-old politician faces five counts of religious insult and anti-Muslim incitement for describing Islam as a fascist religion and calling for the banning of the Quran, which he has likened to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Freedom of speech

Wilders, who said he was "angry and disappointed" with Wednesday's ruling, has defended his remarks were within the limits of freedom of speech.

"I know that I spoke the truth and didn't say anything punishable," he said, vowing to "fight like a lion".

The politician's 17-minute film, Fitna, was called "offensively anti-Islamic" by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and its screening in The Netherlands in 2008 prompted protests in much of the Muslim world.

Prosecutors had initially declined to charge Wilders, citing freedom of speech in dismissing dozens of complaints.

But an appeals court last January ordered prosecutors to put the MP on trial, saying politicians could not make "statements which create hate and grief".

Wilders has become one of the Netherland's leading politicians, with his Freedom Party emerging last year as the country's second-largest in the European Parliament.

Recent polls have also indicated the party also stands a chance to become the largest in the Dutch Parliament in national elections due in May 2011.

Source:
Agencies
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