Trial of Dutch MP adjourned

 

Judges have adjourned the trial of Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders because of concerns
raised by his defence about their impartiality.

Mr Wilders is on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims, but he invoked his right to silence today, prompting the presiding judge to say it appeared he was again trying to avoid discussion about his views sparking concerns from his lawyer.

Mr Wilders is charged with inciting hate and discrimination against Muslims in comments he made in the media and for insulting Muslims by comparing the Islamic faith to Nazism.

"With me, the freedom of speech of many, many Dutchmen is on trial," Mr Wilders told Presiding Judge Jan Moors at the start of the seven-day trial. "I have said what I have said and I will not take one word back," he added.

Mr Wilders told the court he would invoke his right to remain silent.

The presiding judge said Mr Wilders has been accused by others of avoiding engaging in debate and that itappeared he was doing the same again today. "The fact that we will keep asking you questions is not to pester you," the judge said.

Mr Wilders' lawyer said the judge's comments could be construed as bias, prompting the court to adjourn so that new judges could be put in place to hear the defence's concerns.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment or a fine.

Mr Wilders, who has faced death threats over his political views, made the film Fitna in 2008 that accused the Koran of inciting violence and mixed images of terrorist attacks with quotations from the Islamic holy book.

He has also made outspoken remarks to the media, such as an opinion piece in a Dutch daily in which he compared Islam to fascism and the Koran to Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf.

"It has never happened before that such a prominent member of the parliament and a parliamentary leader needs to answer up to charges in front of a criminal court for comments inciting hate," high-profile lawyer Gerard Spong told Dutch BNR radio.

The trial comes at an awkward time for Mr Wilders, whose party is poised to gain a powerful role in the running of the country through its support of a minority government made up of the Liberals (VVD) and Christian Democrat (CDA) parties.

The trial is expected to last several days with a ruling expected in early November.

Reuters