Wilders can challenge prosecution competence: court

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A Dutch court on Monday granted anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders leave to challenge the validity of his prosecution in a hate speech case.

Judge Marcel van Ooosten told the Amsterdam court that if the legal challenge made during a preliminary hearing was successful Wilders would not face trial.

"If these objections are successful, and the prosecution is declared incompetent, then the case will be closed and terminated," the judge said.

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 Dutch MP originally went on trail in October last year but it ended abruptly after three weeks when the judges trying him were ordered to step down by a panel of their peers who upheld claims of bias by the politician.

No new trial date has been set for the populist MP, who has likened Islam to fascism.

He became famous in 2008 by making a short film, "Fitna", mixing Koranic verses with footage of extremist attacks.

Wilders, whose Party for Freedom gives parliamentary support to a right leaning coalition, risks 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, who initially dismissed dozens of complaints against him in June 2008, told the court in the original trial last October that Wilders' statements, though hurtful, were not criminal, and sought his acquittal.

Appeals judges in January 2009 ordered that Wilders be put on trial as his utterances amounted to "sowing hatred" -- compelling an unwilling prosecution to mount a case against him.

© 2011 AFP

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