Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

IN THE PAPERS

Bonnie Tyler to sing 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' during total solar eclipse

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Fighting back: How can Europe protect citizens from 'soft target' terrorism?

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Kenya’s opposition files a petition against presidential vote

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'Siempre vida Barcelona'

Read more

THE DEBATE

Spain attacks - Can Europe prepare for vehicle-ramming terror attacks?

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Measures in place to prevent Grace Mugabe leaving South Africa

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Terror in Barcelona

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Terror attack, Trump turmoil rattle stock markets

Read more

FRENCH CONNECTIONS

Malbouffe: understanding junk food à la française

Read more

Europe

Dutch MP acquitted of hate speech charges

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-06-23

Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders was acquitted in an Amsterdam court Thursday on hate speech charges. The judge stated that the “statements are acceptable within the context of the public debate."

AFP - Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders walked away from hate speech and discrimination charges Thursday for statements made attacking Islam, calling his acquittal a victory for freedom of speech.

"You are being acquitted on all the charges that were put against you," Judge Marcel van Oosten told Wilders who has been on trial in the Amsterdam regional court since October last year.

The flamboyant MP faced five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, Internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic).

He also compared the Koran with Hitler's "Mein Kampf" while in "Fitna" he shows shocking images of the September 11 attacks in the United States and other onslaughts against Western targets interspersed with verses from the Muslim holy book.

"The bench finds that your statements are acceptable within the context of the public debate," the judge told the platinum-haired politician, whose case was boosted by a prosecution unwilling to take aim at him.

"The bench finds that although gross and denegrating, it did not give rise to hatred," said Judge van Oosten.

The 47-year-old Wilders, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, told journalists afterwards he was "overjoyed and very happy" to have been acquitted.

"It is not only a victory for me but also a victory for freedom of speech," he said outside the courtroom.

He added: "It means it is legal to criticise Islam."

The acquittal comes after Wilders last month argued before judges that he was "defending freedom in the Netherlands" against Islam.

One of Europe's most heavily-guarded politicians, the lawmaker told the court he was "obliged to speak" because The Netherlands is "under threat" from Islam.

Wilders previously said he was "defending the character, the identity, the culture" of The Netherlands.

His case has been helped by a reluctant prosecution, which last month again asked for his acquittal, saying that although his comments may have frequently caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal as they criticised Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people.

The prosecution's unwillingness to take aim at Wilders dates as far back as 2008 when it refused to take up a case against him following complaints. On January 21, 2009, however, the Amsterdam appeals court forced the prosecution to mount a case against him.

Wilders' trial also comes against a backdrop of plans by the central-right Dutch government to move away from a multicultural approach towards a tougher stance against those who ignore Dutch values and break the law.

 

Date created : 2011-06-23

  • NETHERLANDS

    Rightist VVD to form minority government backed by anti-Islam party

    Read more

  • NETHERLANDS

    Dutch anti-Islam politician goes on trial

    Read more

COMMENT(S)