Dutch anti-Islam MP's defence says do not blame messenger

19th October 2010, Comments 0 comments

A defence lawyer rejected accusations of hate speech and xenophobia against Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders on Tuesday, urging judges not to "shoot the messenger".

"In his eyes, Islam is a totalitarian ideology," the politician's lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told judges of the Amsterdam district court on the first day of defence pleadings broadcast live via the Internet.

"He is trying to prevent violence from being committed with the Koran in hand," the lawyer said, adding: "Don't shoot the messenger."

Wilders, 47, went on trial on October 4 for inciting hatred by calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

The prosecution service asked the court for his acquittal last Friday, saying his criticism, though hurtful, was not criminal.

On Monday, Muslims told the court that Wilders was "dangerous" and his utterances were dividing a multicultural society that used to cohabit peacefully.

But Moszkowicz cited the right to freedom of speech, adding: "Wilders's conscience dictates that he does not close his eyes ... dictates that he places this discussion on the political agenda."

"As a politician, Wilders does not have to be silent," said the lawyer.

Wilders "has criticism, and expresses that criticism. Regardless of the danger to his own life, he speaks about the dangers he sees around him that result from immigration."

The lawyer stressed, however, that his client "never said that the multicultural society should be abolished."

"This is about Dutch people, assimilated Muslims included, versus the sowers of hatred," said Moszkowicz. "It is not Wilders versus the Muslims."

Wilders, who will give parliamentary support to a new, rightist coalition government inaugurated last Thursday, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine for comments made in his campaign to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands".

The target of death threats, he has 24-hour protection.

The prosecution service had initially dismissed dozens of complaints against the politician in June 2008, 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.

Moszkowicz will conclude his arguments on Thursday.

Judgment is expected on November 5.

© 2010 AFP

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