| Mr Wilders said he had absolutely not expected the ruling and was shaken|
A Dutch court has ordered prosecutors to put a right-wing politician on trial for making anti-Islamic statements.
Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders made a controversial film last year equating Islam with violence and has likened the Koran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. "In a democratic system, hate speech is considered so serious that it is in the general interest to... draw a clear line," the court in Amsterdam said. Mr Wilders said the ruling was a "black day for me and for freedom of speech". "I am shaken. I had absolutely not expected it," he told the Dutch news agency, ANP.
In March 2008, Mr Winders posted a film about the Koran on the internet. The opening scenes of Fitna - a Koranic term sometimes translated as "strife" -show a copy of the holy book followed by footage of the bomb attacks on the US in 11 September 2001, London in July 2005 and Madrid in March 2004. Pictures appearing to show Muslim demonstrators holding up placards saying "God bless Hitler" and "Freedom go to hell" also feature. The film ends with the statement: "Stop Islamisation. Defend our freedom." Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said at the time that the film wrongly equated Islam with violence and served "no purpose other than to offend". When asked about the impact of his film, Mr Wilders said: "It's not the aim of the movie but people might be offended, I know that. So, what the hell? It's their problem, not my problem". He also once wrote in a national newspaper: "I've had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book." Mr Wilders has had police protection since Dutch director Theo Van Gogh was killed by a radical Islamist in 2004. Correspondents say his Freedom Party (PVV), which has nine MPs in the lower house of parliament, has built its popularity largely by tapping into the fear and resentment of Muslim immigrants. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7842344.stm
Dutch court: prosecute anti-Islamic lawmaker2 hours ago AMSTERDAM (AP) — A Dutch court has ordered the prosecution of an outspoken right-wing lawmaker for making anti-Islamic statements. Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders made headlines around the world in March 2008 with his film "Fitna," which juxtaposed Quranic verses against a background of violent film clips and images of terrorism by Islamic radicals. The Amsterdam Appeals Court decision means prosecutors will now have to launch a hate-speech case against Wilders for his statements in the interviews and a short film. Last year, prosecutors decided against launching a case against Wilders, saying his strident anti-Islamic statements were hurtful to Muslims but not criminal. Wilders did not immediately return calls seeking comment on the Amsterdam court's decision Wednesday.
Geert Wilders to be prosecuted
Last updated: Wednesday 21 January 2009The Amsterdam court has ruled that the Public Prosecutor's Office should after all prosecute the populist politician Geert Wilders for anti-Islamic remarks. The Public Prosecutor decided halfway through last year, after six months investigation, not to prosecute on the grounds that Mr Wilders had not committed a punishable offence either in remarks he made to the Volkskrant newspaper or in his controversial film Fitna.
Dozens of organisations and private individuals had reported the PVV party leader for discrimination and inciting hatred. His comparison of the Qur'an with Hitler's book Mein Kampf and remarks in the film Fitna in particular caused widespread commotion. The decision not to proceed against Mr Wilders sparked numerous complaints to the Amsterdam court.
The Public Prosecutor's Office has accepted the ruling of the court. Mr Wilders said he was surprised and dismayed and denied having broken any law.
MIM: The Amsterdam Court ruling ordering the prosecution of Geert Wilders.
Amsterdam Court of Appeal orders the criminal prosecution of the Member of Parliament of the Dutch Second Chamber Geert Wilders
Amsterdam, 21 january 2009 - On 21 January 2009 the Court of Appeal in Amsterdam ordered the criminal prosecution of the member of parliament Geert Wilders for the incitement to hatred and discrimination based on his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. In addition, the Court of Appeal considers criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers because of the comparisons made by Wilders of the islam with the nazism.
The Court of Appeal rendered judgment as a consequence of a number of complaints about the non-prosecution of Wilders for his statements in various media about moslims and their belief. The complainants did not agree with the decision of the public prosecution which decided not to give effect to their report against Wilders.
The public prosecution is of the view, amongst others, that part of the statements of Wilders do not relate to a group of worshippers, but consists of criticism as regards the Islamic belief, as a result of which neither the self-esteem of this group of worshippers is affected nor is this group brought into discredit. Some statements of Wilders can be regarded as offending, but since these were made (outside the Dutch Second Chamber) as a contribution to a social debate there is no longer a ground for punishableness of those statements according to the public prosecution.
The Court of Appeal does not agree with this view of the public prosecution and the considerations which form the basis of this view.
The Court of Appeal has considered that the contested views of Wilders (also as shown in his movie Fitna) constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law as seen in connection with each other, both because of their contents and the method of presentation. This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created. According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers. According to the Court of Appeal Wilders has indeed insulted the Islamic worshippers themselves by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.
Secondly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether a possible criminal prosecution or conviction would be admissible according to the norms of the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court based thereon, which considers the freedom of expression of paramount importance. The Court of Appeal has concluded that the initiation of a criminal prosecution and a possible conviction later on as well, provided that it is proportionate, does not necessarily conflict with the freedom of expression of Wilders, since statements which create hate and grief made by politicians, taken their special responsibility into consideration, are not permitted according to European standards either.
Thirdly, the Court of Appeal has answered the question whether criminal prosecution of Wilders because of his statements would be opportune in the Dutch situation (the question of opportunity). According to the Court of Appeal the instigation of hatred in a democratic society constitutes such a serious matter that a general interest is at stake in order to draw a clear boundary in the public debate.
As regards the insult of a group the Court of Appeal makes a distinction. In general the Court determines that the traditional Dutch culture of debating is based on tolerance of each others views to a large extent while Islamic immigrants may be expected to have consideration for the existing sentiments in the Netherlands as regards their belief, which is partly at odds with Dutch and European values and norms. As regards insulting statements the Court of Appeal prefers the political, public and other legal counter forces rather than the criminal law, as a result of which an active participation to the public debate, by moslims as well, is promoted.
However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with "Mein Kampf"). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.
The Court of Appeal concludes that the way in which the public debate about controversial issues is held, such as the immigration and integration debate, does not fall within the ambit of the law in principle indeed, but the situation changes when fundamental boundaries are exceeded. Then criminal law does appear as well.
Otherwise, the Court of Appeal emphasizes that this is a provisional judgment in the sense that Wilders has not been convicted in this suit of complaint. The Court of Appeal has only judged whether there are sufficient indications – at the level of a reasonable suspicion – to start a criminal prosecution against Wilders. The penal judge who will ultimately render judgment in a public criminal trial will answer the question if there is ground for conviction, and if so, to which extent.
Bron: Gerechtshof Amsterdam
Datum actualiteit: 21 januari 2009
Here is a press release from The International Free Press Society about the Wilders prosecution:
January 22, 2009 - Washington, DC and Copenhagen, Denmark: A Dutch court yesterday ordered the criminal prosecution of Geert Wilders, Dutch parliamentarian and leader of the Freedom Party (PVV), for his statements - written, spoken and filmed -regarding Islam. The Amsterdam Court of Appeals has deemed such statements "insulting," declaring that they "substantially harm the religious esteem" of Muslims.
Clearly, the effect of this Dutch court order is to set new limits to public debate in Dutch society, in this case about the highly controversial but nonetheless crucially important subject of Islam. This makes the prosecution of Geert Wilders an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech in Western society.
Having ordered a criminal prosecution for the opinions of a duly elected leader of a legitimate political party, Dutch authorities have dealt a devastating blow to political expression. While Dutch prosecutors prepare their indictment and Geert Wilders' future hangs in limbo, who in The Netherlands will dare discuss political and cultural matters related to Islam - Islamic law, Islamic integration, Islamic crime, Islamic policy - openly, freely and fearlessly? The chilling effect is instantaneous. If, indeed, Wilders is ultimately convicted, free speech will cease to exist in the heart of Europe.
The International Free Press Society believes this court-ordered prosecution against Geert Wilders, a central figure in the fight against the Islamization of the West, amounts to a dangerous concession to the strictures of Islamic law, which prohibits all criticism of Islam, over Western traditions of, and rights to robust and unfettered debate. As such, it is tantamount to a surrender to totalitarian influences that undermine all Western freedoms. And as such, it must be resisted.
It is important to recall recent history. Two Dutchmen, Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh, have been murdered for their outspoken opposition to Islamization in The Netherlands. Another Dutch politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has been infamously forced into exile. Wilders alone now carries this debate over Islam in Dutch society forward - forcefully but logically, outspokenly but reasonably, and always peacefully. In order to do so, this member of Dutch parliament lives in a virtual prison, consigned to 24-hour guard by Islamic death threats against his life. Now, Dutch authorities have ordered him to be prosecuted for the Orwellian crime of committing "insulting" words.
As Wilders puts it, "If I have to stand trial, I will not stand trial alone, but also with the hundreds of thousands of Dutch people who reject the Islamization of The Netherlands." He will also stand trial with those in The Netherlands and beyond who reject government prosecutions of free speech. In recognition of this this dire situation, the IFPS immediately calls on every supporter of free speech to come to the aid of Geert Wilders.To assist in this effort, the IFPS has launched an international campaign in defense of Geert Wilders and his freedom of speech.
To support these efforts, we urge you to contribute to the Geert Wilders Defense Fund. Donation information can be found at the IFPS website.
We also urge defenders of free speech to sign this letter of protest against the Dutch Government