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Monday, October 04, 2010

"I am sitting here as a suspect because I have spoken... nothing but the truth"

Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders goes on trial

Geert Wilders: "I am sitting here as a suspect because I have spoken... nothing but the truth"

The Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders has gone on trial in Amsterdam accused of inciting hatred against Muslims.

Mr Wilders, whose statements have included comparing the Koran with Hitler's Mein Kampf, told the court freedom of expression was on trial.

If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of a year in jail.

Mr Wilders' Freedom Party is the third biggest in the Netherlands after June elections, and is expected to play a key role in the next parliament.

Prosecutors have brought five charges of inciting hatred and discrimination, and the trial will scrutinise statements he made between 2006 and 2008.

In one such statement, in an editorial for the De Volkskrant newspaper, he wrote: "I've had enough of Islam in the Netherlands; let not one more Muslim immigrate.

"I've had enough of the Koran in the Netherlands: Forbid that fascist book."

Opines BBC Ananlyst Geraldine Coughlin:

Geert Wilders is defending his right to freedom of speech, which lies at the heart of the Dutch constitution. He believes he's said nothing offensive. He says his trial is a political process.

And he says it will not deter him from his mission, which is to stop the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands.

This trial is setting a precedent - judges said that in a democratic system, it is in the general interest to draw a clear line on the limits of hate speech.

And it comes at a time when Geert Wilders occupies a more crucial role, and enjoys a higher-profile, than ever. He is set to become a shadow partner in the next coalition government - giving tacit support to a minority cabinet.

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