Geert Wilders hate speech trial to resume in Netherlands

The trial of far-right politician Geert Wilders, charged with inciting hatred against Muslims, will continue Wednesday in the Netherlands. His lawyer caused a delay, saying the judge was biased.

By , Correspondent

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    Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders (r.) and his lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz await the start of his trial inside the courtroom in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Oct. 4.
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A special panel of judges rejected Tuesday claims of judicial bias raised by Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, who is facing charges of inciting hatred against Muslims.

Mr. Wilders’s trial is now set to resume Wednesday morning led by the same presiding judge, whose impartiality was questioned by the vocally anti-Islam lawmaker when the trial opened Monday morning.

“There is no substantial evidence to show that the judges have given the impression of being biased, therefore the request is being denied,” said Frans Bauduin, one of the review judges.

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During Monday’s proceedings, Judge Jan Moors said Wilders had made a name for his bold statements. “It appears you are doing that again,” Judge Moors said, prompting protests from Wilders’s lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz.

Criticizing the Quran

Wilders was charged after he compared Islam’s holy book, the Quran, to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The Quran was a “fascist” book, Wilders wrote in newspaper editorial in 2007.

“He is trying to turn the court into a podium for his political activities,” says Rudy Andeweg, a professor of Dutch politics at Leiden University. “He enjoys the attention. He wants a political trial but judges won’t have that.”

“Judges will not give Wilders any special treatment,” Andeweg adds. “They just treat him as any other citizen, which is what it has to be.”

Considered by some as political heir to Pim Fortuyn, who was murdered in broad daylight in 2002, Wilders has gained momentum as one of Europe’s leading anti-Muslim voices.

His popularity base has also expanded over the years as voters take a cue from his tough stance against immigration.

Support for new coalition

Wilders’s populist Freedom Party, which became the nation’s third-largest following the June elections, has already agreed to back a new conservative government headed by the free market VVD party.

Rebel Christian Democratic Alliance (CDA) legislators Kathleen Ferrier and Ad Koppejan offered their support Tuesday for the new coalition, removing the last hurdle to establishing The Netherlands’ first postwar minority government.

Ms. Ferrier and Mr. Koppejan had blocked the deal, arguing any partnership involving Wilders’s party would be unworkable because of the charismatic politician’s perceived intolerance toward other religions, particularly Islam.

With 76 seats in the 150-seat Dutch parliament, a three-party coalition involving the VVD, the CDA, and Wilders’s PVV party would be able to govern.

During Monday’s court appearance, Wilders refused to apologize for his utterances, saying he was only "stating my opinion in the context of public debate."

The ruling, which was originally set for Nov. 2, when The Netherlands commemorates the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim extremist, will be delivered two days later. A court official said the postponement had nothing to do with the commemorations. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail or a fine of up to 10,000 euros.

Wilders, who receives regular police protection, broke away from the VVD party in 2005 after it backed Turkey’s European Union membership.

“The Islamization of Europe continues all the time,” Wilders said in a speech in Berlin Sunday. “But the West has no strategy for dealing with the Islamic ideology, because our elites say that we must adapt to them, rather than the other way round.”

When formed, the new government intends to curb immigration from non-Western countries on Wilders’s recommendations. Plans to ban the burqa are also on the table. Tougher laws on asylum-seekers will be implemented while state funding for obligatory citizenship classes will be withdrawn.

Andeweg doubts the new government will be able to implement all of Wilders’s policies, and warns that any government involving Wilders won’t be stable.

“The Netherlands is bound by international treaties,” he says. “It’s a risk going with Wilders.”

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