MP Geert Wilders, who leads the anti-immigration PVV party, should be prosecuted for discrimination and inciting hatred, Amsterdam’s appeal court ruled on Wednesday.
‘This is a black day for me and for freedom of speech,’ Wilders told the Telegraaf on Wednesday. ‘I had not expected it [this ruling].’
The public prosecution department has received dozens of complaints about Wilders’ anti-Islam film Fitna and his statements in the media over the past few years.
But at the end of June last year, the department said it did not have enough grounds to prosecute him and that a healthy legal system should allow plenty of leeway to people involved in political debate.
The appeal court said that while freedom of speech was important, there were limits to that freedom.
Several of the complaints relate to articles or letters by Wilders which were published in the Volkskrant newspaper. For example, in August 2007 he called for the Koran to be banned. ‘I have had enough of Islam in the Netherlands: no more Muslim immigrants,’ the MP wrote. He also compared the Koran to Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.
Lawyer Haroon Raza, one of those who asked the court of appeal for its position, points to the ‘massive social unrest’ which Wilders has generated and says this is why he should be prosecuted.
Wilders’ refusal to debate the issues with Muslims themselves means that those who feel insulted by his comments cannot counter the claims he makes, Raza told the Volkskrant.
Anti-racist organisation Nederland Bekent Kleur had also appealed against the public prosecution department’s reluctance to take Wilders to court.
The organisation has made three formal complaints about Wilders and other PVV MPs, relating to a total of 96 statements, the Volkskrant says.
The public prosecution department said in a reaction that it would abide by the court´s decision but could not say when legal action would be taken against Wilders.
Over the past two years, the Netherlands has prosecuted several people for calling police officers ‘homo (gay) and insulting the queen.
The PVV has nine seats in parliament but according to latest opinion polls would win 12 if an election was held now.
For more reactions, click here
Should Wilders be prosecuted? To take part in our poll, click here