Dutch MP not guilty on religious hatred charge: prosecution

15th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dutch prosecutors sought the acquittal Friday of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders on a charge of inciting hatred against Muslims, saying it was not a crime to criticise religion.

"Criticism (of religion) is allowed as long as it does not lead to incitement of hatred against people," prosecutor Birgit van Roessel told the Amsterdam district court.

"Therefore, we ask for acquittal on the second charge" of the five on the indictment against Wilders, who went on trial last Monday for calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

On Tuesday, the prosecution had sought Wilders' acquittal of the first charge against him, giving offence to Muslims, and asked judges not to award damages to his accusers.

Van Roessel said Wilders' statements on Islam did not qualify as hate speech as they did not succeed in driving an "unbridgeable gap" between groups of people.

"It would be hurtful to many Muslims when Wilders calls for a ban on the Koran," the prosecutor told judges.

"But the feelings of this group can play no role in determining the facts of the case."

In June 2008, the Dutch prosecution service dismissed dozens of complaints against the politician from individuals around the country, citing his right to freedom of speech.

But appeals judges ordered in January 2009 that he stand trial as his utterances amounted to "sowing hatred" -- compelling the prosecution to mount a case against him.

Argument continued on Friday on whether Wilders should be convicted, with three charges now remaining for inciting discrimination against Muslims and hatred and discrimination against people of non-Western immigrant origin.

Wilders, an informal partner of the new, rightist coalition government inaugurated on Thursday, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine.

© 2010 AFP

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