Sunday, October 3, 2010

Geert Wilders' trial to resume on Monday

"This is about freedom of speech. My client believes that in the Netherlands, one must be able to say whatever one wants, barring incitement to violence."

That's a quote from Dutch lawyer Bram Moszkowicz. The client he refers to is Dutch politician Geert Wilders, whose "hate speech" trial resumes tomorrow, Monday, October 4.

The crime that Wilders is accused of committing is "giving offense to Islam." The evidence includes a litany of public statements that Wilders has made, including comparisons that he has made between the Quran and Mein Kampf.

It is sometimes incorrectly claimed that Wilders has called for banning the Quran from the Netherlands. What Wilders actually has said, repeatedly, is that if the existing Dutch laws banning Mein Kampf were applied consistently, then the Quran would also be banned as a work of totalitarian propaganda.

Wilders, however, is against all such bans. He has called for Dutch book-banning laws to be repealed, and he has also called for a European-wide "first amendment" to guarantee freedom of expression.

The evidence before the court also includes the 17-minute long film "Fitna". The film was produced by Wilders, who described it as "a call to shake off the creeping tyranny of Islamization".

During the first phase of the trial, which ended in February, the judges for the case refused to allow most of the evidence and witnesses that Wilders and his attorney wished to present for the defense. The rejected witnesses included Mohammed Bouyeri, the convicted murderer of Theo van Gogh; Fawaz Jneid, imam at the Soennah Mosque in The Hague; and Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, chairman of the Guardian Council in Iran. Also rejected were two ex-Muslims and five scholars and other "expert witnesses" on the Islamic religion.

Out of a total of eighteen witnesses that the defense wished to call, only three were approved by the judges, and those only on the condition that their testimony not be in public. At the time Wilders publicly responded to these rulings by saying, "Apparently the truth about Islam must remain a secret."

The crime of saying things that Muslims don't like to hear is punishable in the Netherlands by spending up to one year in prison, and paying a fine of up to 19,000€ (about $26,000).

Wilders, who is under constant police protection, is scheduled to appear in court in Amsterdam on Oct. 4 at 9 a.m. local time. The entire trial will be webcast, which is unusual in the Netherlands, and a ruling is expected Nov. 2.