Wilders challenges judge presiding over his trial

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The trial of Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders was suspended until further notice after his lawyer Bram Moszkowicz challenged the judge presiding over the case after less than two hours on the first day of the proceedings.

At the start of his trial on charges of inciting racial hatred against Muslims, Mr Wilders invoked his right to remain silent, which prompted the presiding judge to remark that the court also read papers and watched television, and that it seemed like, as had been noted in the media before, that Mr Wilders prefers to avoid discussion. Mr Moszkowicz said it was inappropriate for the presiding judge to give his interpretation of his client’s decision to remain silent. He pointed out that Mr Wilders is already facing a court ruling “which resembles a conviction”. The case against the politician was initially dismissed by the Public Prosecutors’ Office, but charges were filed following a court order in a special complaints procedure.The court has rejected the accusation of being biased and will not recuse itself. A separate section of the court will assess the merits of Mr Moszkowicz’s challenge to the presiding judge.  

Sick ideology If convicted, Geert Wilders, who looks set to become a shadow partner in the next Dutch government, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine for calling Islam "fascist" and likening the Qur'an to Hitler's Mein Kampf. Wilders, 47, is charged with five counts of giving religious offence to Muslims and inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans. In comments made between October 2006 and March 2008 in Dutch newspapers and on Internet forums, prosecutors say that Wilders described Islam as "the sick ideology of Allah and Mohammed" and its holy book as "the Mein Kampf of a religion that seeks to eliminate others".  

Fitna 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. Geert Wilders arrived at the Amsterdam district court minutes before the start of the hearing. About a dozen protesters had gathered outside the court building with a large placard that blames Wilders for "division and polarisation", as a strong contingent of police, some in riot gear, kept watch. "The different colours of our society is what makes us rich, but that is being threatened by Mr Wilders," Mustafa Ayranci, one of the group's organisers and head of the Turkish labour association, told AFP.  

Propping up the next government Wilders' Party for Freedom PVV came third in 9 June elections with 24 seats out of 150 in the Dutch lower house of parliament. Under a coalition deal being finalised, his PVV will provide a minority cabinet of the Christian Democrats and liberals with the majority they need to pass decisions through parliament in return for a voice in policy formation.




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