Dutch court rejects anti-Islam MP's bid against judges

18th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Dutch court on Monday rejected anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders' bid for the withdrawal of a panel of judges chosen to try him for hate speech.

"The request for recusal is denied," A.J. van der Meer, the presiding judge of an independent panel set up to hear Wilders' application, said at a hearing broadcast via the Internet.

"We order the resumption of the trial."

This had been Wilders' second application for the withdrawal of judges on the grounds of bias.

He had won the first round shortly after his trial started in October last year, when his judges were ordered to step down by a panel of their peers who upheld the politician's bias claims.

In March, the new judges ruled that the trial must go ahead, dismissing Wilders' claims that they had no jurisdiction in the case.

Wilders' lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told the court last Friday he believed the judges to be partial as they had refused to order a probe of a witness accused of lying to the court.

But van der Meer said there was no proof of impartiality, adding "irritation is not enough of a reason for a recusal."

Wilders, 47, faces five counts of giving offence to Muslims and of inciting hatred against Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans.

The allegations arise partly from the short film "Fitna", which catapulted Wilders to international notoriety in 2008 and in which he mixes Koranic verses with footage of extremist attacks.

Wilders likens the Koran to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

The MP, whose Party for Freedom came third in elections last year and gives parliamentary support to a right-leaning coalition, faces up to a year in jail or a 7,600 euro (10,300 dollar) fine for comments made in his campaign to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands".

Prosecutors initially dismissed dozens of complaints against Wilders in June 2008 but were compelled by appeals judges to mount a case against him.

© 2011 AFP

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