Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders' hate speech trial opens
Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, set to become a shadow partner in the next Dutch government, went on trial Monday accused of inciting racial hatred against Muslims.
The controversial politician with his signature shock of dyed-blonde hair risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine for calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf.
The hearing in Amsterdam was opened by presiding judge Jan Moors shortly after 9:00 am (0700 GMT) with Wilders seated in the front row of the courtroom next to his advocate Bram Moszkovicz.
Wilders, 47, is charged with five counts of giving religious offence to Muslims and inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans.
In comments made between October 2006 and March 2008 in Dutch newspapers and on Internet forums, prosecutors say that Wilders described Islam as "the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed" and its holy book as "the Mein Kampf of a religion that seeks to eliminate others".
Among the exhibits is Wilders' 17-minute film, "Fitna", alleged to depict Islam as a force bent on destroying the West and whose screening in the Netherlands in 2008 prompted protests in much of the Muslim world.
About 15 uprotesters gathered outside the Amsterdam district court building with a large placard that blamed Wilders for "division and polarisation", as a strong contingent of police, some in riot gear, kept watch.
"The different colours of our society is what makes us rich, but that is being threatened by Mr Wilders," Mustafa Ayranci, one of the group's organisers and head of the Turkish labour association, told AFP.
In the public gallery were about a dozen MPs of Wilders' Party for Freedom (PVV), which came third in June 9 elections with 24 seats out of 150 in the Dutch lower house of parliament.
Under a coalition deal being finalised, his PVV will provide a minority cabinet of the Christian Democrats and liberals with the majority they need to pass decisions through parliament in return for a voice in policy formation.
The target of death threats, Wilders has 24-hour state-sponsored protection while pursuing his mission to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands".
He campaigns for a stop to Muslim immigration, banning the construction of new mosques, and a tax on headscarves.
Wilders was temporarily banned from Britain last year on race hate grounds.
In Berlin on Saturday, more than 100 people demonstrated against his presence to give a speech at the invitation of a right-wing German politician.
In June 2008, the Dutch prosecution service dismissed dozens of complaints against Wilders from 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" and exceeded the boundaries of political debate.
Judgment is expected on November 4.
© 2010 AFP