Prosecutors again call for Wilders’ acquittal

Dutch prosecutors Wednesday again argued for anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders’s acquittal on hate speech charges, saying that while his comments may have caused anxiety and insult, they were not criminal.

“In regards to this case, the public ministry has not changed its mind. We recommend an acquittal,” prosecutor Paul Velleman told the Amsterdam district court. Prosecutors previously called for the politician’s acquittal on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims and people of non-Western immigrant origin, particularly Moroccans.

The Dutch MP originally went on trial October 4 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. The trial resumed in March, with prosecutors again stating their position on Wednesday.

Velleman told the court the prosecution believed Wilders had no case to answer as he was criticising Islam as a religion and not Muslims as a people and therefore committed no criminal offence. “Dutch legislation sets high requirements for hate speech,” Velleman said. “Although (Wilders’) comments may cause anxiety and aversion, it would not be punishable by law.”.

Prosecutors initially dismissed dozens of complaints against him in June 2008 but 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.

AFP, 25 March 2011