Judges in Dutch anti-Islam MP's hate speech trial recused
The judges trying Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders for hate speech were ordered to step down at his request Friday by an independent panel of their colleagues.
Wilders' "request is granted," the president of a specially compiled panel of different judges ruled in the Amsterdam district court on Tuesday.
They said other judges would hear the rest of the case.
Wilders, 47, went on trial on October 4 for inciting hatred by calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".
His defence lawyer had earlier asked that the trial judges be removed, saying his client feared they were biased against him.
The bench had created "an impression of partiality" by putting off a decision on the defence's request to recall a witness, Wilders' lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told court.
"I ask for your recusal," the lawyer said on what was to have been the last day of argument in the trial, broadcast live on the Internet.
Being denied an opportunity to recall the witness would "make it impossible for the defence to substantiate a crucial part of its case," he added.
The oversight panel also found the trial judges' decision to be "incomprehensible in the absence of any motivation."
Wilders' fear of bias as a result of the decision was "understandable", they said.
"Under the circumstances, the request (for the judges' removal) is granted. Another chamber will handle the rest of the case."
The prosecution and defence have both asked for Wilders' acquittal, while Muslims have told the court he was "dangerous" and should be reined in.
Prosecutors, who initially dismissed dozens of complaints against the politician in June 2008, told the court last Friday that Wilders' statements, though hurtful, were not criminal.
Appeals judges ordered in January 2009 that Wilders stand trial as his utterances amounted to "sowing hatred" -- compelling the prosecution to mount a case against him.
Moszkowicz said earlier he wanted to recall defence witness Hans Jansen, a so-called "Arab expert". Jansen had claimed in an interview published in a Dutch newspaper on Friday that one of the appeals judges had tried to convince him at a dinner of the necessity of putting Wilders on trial.
Wilders has previously also sought his judges' recusal, complaining at the start of his trial about their reaction to his decision to rely on his right to remain silent.
The politician, who will give parliamentary support to a new, rightist coalition government, 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".
© 2010 AFP