Religious criticism not a crime, Dutch MP's trial told

15th October 2010, Comments 1 comment

Dutch prosecutors argued in the hate speech trial of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders on Friday that criticising religion was not a crime.

"Criticism can only be punishable if it is unmistakably aimed at people and not only their convictions," prosecutor Birgit van Roessel told the Amsterdam district court.

Hate speech was criminalised to protect vulnerable groups, she said, but "the wounding of feelings, religious feelings, plays no role."

Wilders, a shadow partner of the new, rightist coalition government inaugurated on Thursday, went on trial last week for calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf".

In June 2008, the Dutch prosecuting 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.

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

Comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf, though hurtful, was not punishable, they argued.

The remaining charges against Wilders, 47, relate to inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans.

The controversial politician, known for his signature shock of dyed-blonde hair, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine for comments made between October 2006 and March 2008 in Dutch newspapers and on Internet forums.

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.

The target of death threats, Wilders enjoys 24-hour state-sponsored protection while pursuing his mission to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands".

© 2010 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • cornell posted:

    on 15th October 2010, 15:34:38 - Reply

    Stop vilifying Geert, the freedom fighter. He's fighting for us. Release him.