Acquittal is victory for freedom of speech: Wilders
Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders hailed his acquittal by an Amsterdam court Thursday on charges of hate speech and discrimination against Islam as a triumph for free speech.
"It is not only a victory for me but also a victory for freedom of speech," a relieved Wilders told journalists after the verdict was read in the Amsterdam regional court.
Wilders, 47, 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 previously compared the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".
"I am overjoyed and very happy," a smiling Wilders said afterwards.
"It means it is legal to criticise Islam."
In his 20-minute judgment, delivered Thursday, Judge Marcel van Oosten told Wilders: "You are being acquitted on all the charges that were put against you."
The judge said the court found that Wilders' statements were made criticising Islam as a religion and not Muslims as people, and therefore he could not be criminally prosecuted. His comments, although gross and denegrating, did not give rise to racial hatred, the judge said.
The leader of the right-wing Party for Freedom's (PVV) acquittal comes on the backdrop of a prosecution unwilling to take up the case against the platinum-haired parliamentarian, who claimed before court he was "defending freedom in the Netherlands" against Islam.
© 2011 AFP