Anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders should not have been refused entry to Britain to attend a screening of his film Fitna earlier this year, a British immigration tribunal ruled on Tuesday.
Wilders had been invited to the House of Lords, the upper house of the British parliament, for the screening in February, but was told he would be refused entry on public order grounds.
Wilders went ahead with the trip and was turned back by immigration officials at Heathrow airport.
‘This is a very black day. They are bowing down to Islam by refusing entry to critics,’ Wilders said at the time.
The 15 minute film Fitna is a compilation of tv footage which equates Islam with terrorism. The London screening was only attended by a handful of people.
‘We are disappointed by the court’s decision. The government opposes extremism in all its forms,’ a British home office spokesman told the BBC on Tuesday.
‘The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence. We still maintain this view.’
Wilders described the ruling as ‘fantastic’. ‘This is a victory for freedom of expression,’ he told the Telegraaf.
Foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen said he was pleased with the verdict and that he hoped Britain would now admit Wilders.
The Dutch government had protested about the ban, saying Wilders was not a threat to public order.
Wilders still faces prosecution in the Netherlands for discrimination and inciting hatred. That trial is due to begin in January.
Wilders’ political party, the PVV, is currently one of the biggest in the country in the latest opinion polls with some 28 of the 150 seats in parliament.