Wilders 'anti-Islam' trial to go ahead

Court rules case will continue against Dutch politician Geert Wilders on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.

    Judges, prosecutors and defence agreed for the trial against Wilders to resume on April 13 with key testimonies [AFP]

    A Dutch court has ruled it would go ahead with the trial of politician Geert Wilders on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, rejecting a request to dismiss the case.

    The presiding judge on Wednesday rejected most of the defence's objections such as its questioning of the court's authority to hear the case in the first place and of the way that the prosecutors had pursued the trial.

    In June 2008 prosecutors initially dismissed dozens of complaints against Wilders but were compelled by the appeals ruling to mount a case against him in 2010. Wilders was charged with insulting Muslims by comparing Islam to Nazism.

    The case has attracted considerable attention, not just because of Wilders' controversial comments, but also because of the increasing influence of his Freedom Party, which provides support for the minority government on key issues.

    Wilders has argued that he is exercising his freedom of speech when he criticises Islam and had won the right last month to seek a dismissal of the case. But reading out the ruling, judge Marcel van Oosten, said the case would go ahead.

    The prosecution case focuses on the short film Fitna, which catapulted Wilders to international notoriety in 2008 and in which he mixes Koranic verses with footage of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York.

    In the film he also likened the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

    Wilders' lawyers claimed that the film was distributed via an American server and was not released in the Netherlands but Van Oosten said that even so it was aimed at a Dutch audience.

    "The film is, when you take into account its contents and sub-titles in the Dutch language, destined for a Dutch audience," he told the court.

    However, judges did agree with the defence that part of the indictment against Wilders should be dropped.
    The judges said that in including the quotes in the indictment prosecutors were going beyond the brief set out by the Amsterdam appeals court.

    Following a brief adjournment, judges, prosecutors and the defence agreed for the trial to resume on April 13 with key witness testimony. A ruling could then be handed down in summer.

    Wilders faces up to a year in jail or a fine of $10,300 for comments made in his campaign to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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