PVV leader Wilders has been cleared of inciting hatred and discrimination. Wilders: ‘This proves it is ok to criticise Islam. I have not been gagged.’
The Volkskrant heads its clutch of comments with ‘A victory for free speech’. It turns out to be Wilders’ first reaction to the court’s decision. The paper goes on to quote prime minister Rutte who says the acquittal is ‘good news’ for the silent partner in his cabinet with whom he maintains ‘a good working relationship’.
CDA parliamentary party leader Sybrand van Haersma Buma speaks of ‘a balanced verdict which shows that what Wilders’ statements fall within the boundaries of public debate.’ He went on to add that he hoped the debate would not lack in ‘respect and decency’, a sentiment echoed by former GroenLinks leader Femke Halsema who also called the outcome of the trial ‘the right decision’.
The opposition parties reacted cautiously.
D’66 parliamentary leader Alexander Pechtold said he was ‘glad of the verdict’ but that he was disappointed that Wilders who has said he has no confidence in the Dutch judicial system has not retracted his words. PvdA MP Jeroen Recourt said his party would ‘continue to confront Wilders but without being hurtful. And we will insist that he refrains from insulting language as well.’
GroenLinks MP Tofik Dibi who welcomed the verdict said he ‘can’t wait to see Wilders get into a proper debate with the people who feel insulted by him. What a turn up for the book that would be!’
Lawyer Gerard Spong, one of the first people to accuse Wilders of incitement to hatred was disappointed. ‘We are thinking of going to the European Court. I think Wilders went too far. I was surprised and shocked when he said at the end of the trial that he had meant to be rude and insulting. That is an admission in itself. If he had said that during the trial he would have been convicted. By acquitting him the judges have paved the way to making Muslims second rate citizen.’ Spong called the judge’s comment that Wilders has remained within the context of public debate ‘vague and meaningless’.
Trouw quotes Geert Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszokowitz: ‘I am happy. This case goes beyond the individual case of Mr Wilders and that is why I as citizen as well as a lawyer applaud the decision. Wilders did not incite violence and so in my opinion did not overstep the line.’
The AD writes that the organisations behind Wilders’ prosecution will be turning to the human rights committee of the United Nations. Their lawyer Ties Prakken is quoted as saying that ‘the verdict has damaged the right of minorities to be protected from hatemongering’. One of the organisations, the Beweging to Herstel van het Respect (movement to bring back respect) said: ‘The court has effectively given Wilders permission to turn his threats into action and refuse Muslims to enter the country, forbid the reading of the Koran in the Netherlands and put a stop to building more mosques.’ It has announced it will take the state to court in order to bring about ‘effective measures’ to prevent Wilders from carrying out the alleged threats.