Verdict set for Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker
Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders faces judgement Thursday in an Amsterdam court for his statements attacking Islam, which he claimed were made to "defend freedom in The Netherlands."
Wilders, 47, will be in the dock as Judge Marcel van Oosten starts reading his verdict at 9:00 am (0700 GMT) in a trial watched closely by both Wilders' supporters and his detractors and broadcast live.
Wilders faces five counts of hate speech and discrimination for his anti-Islamic remarks on websites, Internet forums and in Dutch newspapers between October 2006 and March 2008, and in his controversial 17-minute movie "Fitna" ("Discord" in Arabic).
In the past he has likened the Koran to Hitler's "Mein Kampf," and "Fitna" shows shocking images of 9/11 and other terror attacks on Western targets interspersed with verses from the Koran.
The 2008 movie caused widespread outrage in Muslim countries and opposition from the Dutch government, which feared it might spark a militant response similar to that which followed the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
But Wilders -- one of Europe's most heavily guarded politicians -- has demanded his acquittal before the court, saying he was "obliged to speak" because The Netherlands is "under threat" from Islam.
The blond parliamentarian, whose right-wing Party for Freedom (PVV) lends its support to a right-leaning Dutch coalition government, said he was "defending the character, the identity, the culture and the freedom of The Netherlands."
His case has been helped by a reluctant prosecution, who last month again asked for his acquittal, saying that although his comments may have frequently caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal as they criticised Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people.
The prosecution's unwillingness to take aim at Wilders dates as far back as 2008 when it refused to take up a case against him following complaints. On January 21, 2009, however, the Amsterdam appeals court forced the prosecution to mount a case against him.
On trial since October last year, Wilders risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600 euro ($10,900) fine if found guilty.
© 2011 AFP