Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders said on Thursday he was barred from entering Britain after the government there said his virulent anti-Islamic views posed a threat to public order and harmony.
Geert Wilders' argues that the Koran incites violence
Wilders, leader of the liberal-rightist Freedom Party PVV, had been forewarned by immigration officials that he would not be allowed to enter the UK prior to touching down on a flight from Amsterdam.
"I am in a detention center at Heathrow ... I will not be allowed to enter the country," Wilders told the Reuters news agency from the airport. "They will send me back within a few hours."
"It is a very sad day, not only for me, but for freedom of speech," he said.
British authorities decided to refuse Wilders entry after a Dutch court ruled on Jan. 21 that he should be prosecuted for alleged discrimination and incitement of violence and hatred.
Wilders had been invited by Malcolm Pearson, a member of the House of Lords, to show his controversial film Fitna, a documentary which warns of the spread of radical Islam. Wilders refers to the Koran as a "fascist book."
The case has sparked a diplomatic rift between Britain and the Netherlands, with the Dutch government protesting the decision to refuse entry to a democratically elected politician.
"It is highly regrettable that a Dutch MP should be denied entry to another EU country," Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in a statement on the Dutch Embassy's British Web site.
Wilders is currently being prosecuted in the Netherlands for anti-Islam remarks. His short film, which was shown over the Internet last March, was condemned by the Dutch government.
Wilders anti-Islam juxtaposes terrorist attacks with pictures of the Koran
The film's opening scenes juxtapose a copy of the Koran with images of major terrorist attacks, including September 11 in the US and the Madrid and London bombings in 2004 and 2005.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Britain's BBC that "a hate-filled film designed to stir up religious and racial hatred in this country is contrary to our laws."
Commission: entry refusal legal
Officials from the European Commission, the EU's executive, said that member states have the right to refuse entry to EU citizens on the grounds of public order, security or health.
However, they have to explain to the would-be traveller the reasons for the refusal and grant them the right to appeal, commission justice spokesman Michele Cercone said.
Commission officials refused to comment directly on the Wilders case, saying that it was up to member states to make their own risk assessments.
The travel ban received solid backing from Muslim groups in Britain, who described Wilders as an "open and relentless preacher of hate."