Monday, October 4, 2010

Geert Wilders Defiant: "I will not take one word back."

Geert Wilders did far more than merely stand his ground as his free speech trial resumed today in Copenhagen. He went on the attack.

In his opening statement, Wilders declared "I am a suspect here because I have expressed my opinion as a representative of the people. Formally I'm on trial here today, but with me, the freedom of expression of many, many Dutch people is also being judged . . . . I have said what I have said and I will not take one word back."

Wilders also informed the judges that he would refuse to answer any of their questions, which is his right as a defendant under Dutch law. Journalist Bruno Waterfield, writing for the UK Telegraph, describes what happened next:
Jan Moors, the presiding judge then noted that Mr Wilders has been accused of being "good in taking a stand and then avoiding a discussion" of the issue. "By remaining silent, it seems you're doing that today as well," he said.
Lead defense attorney, Bram Moszkowicz, then accused the judge of having blatantly revealed a clear personal bias against Wilders. That accusation forced the trial to be abruptly halted. A separate hearing must now be convened so that a panel of judges can rule on whether or not Moors' remark should disqualify him.

Wilders told reporters later, "I find it scandalous that the presiding judge interprets this and comments on it. With this presiding judge and such a panel of judges, a fair trial isn’t possible anymore.” Wilders also stated that if Jan Moors is allowed to continue as the chief judge, "then this isn't just a political trial, but a dishonest trial with partisan judges,"

My opinion is that Wilders' refusal to respond to questions from the judges is a deliberate strategy to demonstrate to the world that there is no real evidence against him, and that the case has been a political witch-hunt from the beginning. After all, the "hate speech" charges are supposedly based on public statements made by Wilders, all of which are already in evidence. If the prosecutors had a real case, then they could make it without any further statements from Wilders. If the judges, for their part, are uncertain about what any of these statements "mean", then it is also up to the prosecutors to prove that their "meaning" is, somehow, of a criminal nature sufficient to justify conviction on the charges.

And it is also quite possible that Jan Moors is following a deliberate strategy of his own. Many in the Dutch political class would like this case to simply go away. If Wilders is convicted it will only enhance his international status as a freedom fighter. If he is acquitted it will be a huge victory for the right to openly criticize Islam, and a fatal blow to "hate-speech" legislation. If a new panel of judges has to be chosen, then perhaps the trial will be put off indefinitely until some legal maneuver can be found to throw the charges out without a verdict one way or the other.