Dutch court rejects bid to drop hate speech trial | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.05.2011

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Dutch court rejects bid to drop hate speech trial

Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders has failed in his bid to have a hate speech trial against him dismissed. Judges in the Netherlands have rejected the Dutch Freedom Party leader's claim that the court was not impartial.

Geert Wilders in court

Wilders is on trial for making anti-Islamic statements

Judges in the Netherlands ruled on Monday that the hate speech trial against anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders will continue, despite claims from his lawyers that the court trying him was not impartial.

In a hearing broadcast online by Dutch public television, Judge Marcel van Oosten ruled that "the request is denied," adding "the trial must go on."

The leader of the popular Dutch Freedom Party is facing five counts of inciting hatred against Muslims and "making statements insulting to Muslims as a group."

The allegations against the far right leader stem in part from a 2008 short film entitled "Fitna" in which he mixed verses from the Koran with footage of extremist attacks. He also reportedly called for a ban on the Quran and compared Islam to Nazism, likening the Quran to Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf."

Wilders, 47, has since argued that his remarks are part of a legitimate public debate.

Facing jail

Judge Marcel van Oosten inside the courtroom in Amsterdam.

The court ruled there was no evidence of bias

Wilders' lawyer contested the trial on May 2, arguing that all charges should be dropped on the basis that an earlier court decision was biased.

His defense team claimed that one of the judges involved in bringing Wilders' trial to court had interfered with a witness.

They argued that Judge Tom Schalken had tried to persuade defense witness and Arab world expert Hans Jansen to support the trial, but the allegations were dismissed in court.

"It isn't plausible that Schalken tried to influence Jansen," said van Oosten. "We cannot conclude that the defendant's rights were violated."

Wilders' Freedom party has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, coming third in last year's election. Wilders offers parliamentary support to the right-leaning Dutch coalition and actively campaigns to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands."

If found guilty, Wilders faces up to a year in prison or a 7,600 euro ($10,300) fine.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AP, AFP)

Editor: Martin Kuebler

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