Wilders’ lawyer seeks end to hate speech trial

Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders’ lawyer asked judges on Monday to throw out his client’s hate speech trial arguing that neither they nor the prosecution had jurisdiction in the case. “I ask you to declare the prosecution not competent,” defence lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told the Amsterdam district court in a hearing the public broadcaster streamed live on the Internet.

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, in numerous public statements since October 2006. The Dutch MP’s trial opened in October last year, but ended abruptly three weeks later when the judges trying him were ordered to step down by a panel of their peers who upheld the politician’s claims of bias.

No new trial date has been set for the populist MP, who calls Islam “fascist” and likens the Koran to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. Wilders shot to international notoriety in 2008 with the release of his short film, “Fitna”, which mixes Koranic verses with footage of extremist attacks.

Moszkowicz said the film was distributed via an American server. “The alleged crimes were not committed in Amsterdam,” nor was Wilders a resident of the Dutch capital city, and thus its district court had no jurisdiction, Moszkowicz said.

Wilders, whose Party for Freedom gives parliamentary support to a right-leaning coalition, faces up to a year in jail or a €7,600 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 but were compelled by an appeals ruling to mount a case regardless, told judges last October that Wilders’ statements, though hurtful, were not criminal.

The prosecution will have a chance on Wednesday to respond to Moszkowicz’s “preliminary objections”, which if accepted by the judges may see the case thrown out. A ruling is expected on March 30.

AFP, 14 March 2011