Court orders Wilders re-trial

 

A Dutch court has approved a request from politician Geert Wilders to have new judges for his trial on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims, forcing the court to start the case over again.

Mr Wilders' lawyer had asked the court to replace the current judges because of concern about their potential bias after they did not immediately approve a request to take testimony from a witness the defence considers crucial to its case.

The ruling is seen as another victory for the outspoken Mr Wilders, who plays a key role in supporting the new minority Dutch government after his anti-immigration Freedom Party was one of the big winners at the June elections.

"This gives me a new chance of a new fair trial. I am confident that I can only be acquitted because I have broken no law, but spoken the truth," Mr Wilders said adding he has only exercised freedom of speech.

In ruling in favour of the defence's request for new judges, the court said the defence's fear of potential bias from trial judges was "understandable".

"The request is granted. The hearing will be adjourned and at a later moment another chamber will have to start the case again," the court judge said in reading out the ruling.

Mr Wilders, who plays a key supporting role for the new minority Dutch government, faces prison or a fine on charges he insulted Muslims by comparing Islam to Nazism.

"This means that the trial has to start all over again. There will be new judges and a new date," Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops, a prominent lawyer and an international criminal law professor at Utrecht University, said of the ruling to appoint new judges.