PM astonished by Fitna debate reactions

Prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende said on Friday that he was astonished by the reactions to this week’s parliamentary debate on Geert Wilders’ anti-Koran film Fitna.

During Tuesday’s debate, ministers made public cabinet documents which proved that Wilders had been planning to show pages being torn from the Koran in his film. The notes were made after meetings between ministers and Wilders last year.
But Wilders described the notes as rubbish and accused ministers of lying.
Speaking on the fringes of the Nato summit in Bucharest, Balkenende said he had never come across such a reaction to official documents during his years as prime minister. It was not a question of differing interpretation of the facts, he said. The notes are ‘as clear as day’.
Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin and home affairs minister Guusje ter Horst, who were also at the meeting, also denied Wilders’ accusations. ‘It is the facts that count,’ said Hirsch Ballin. ‘There is nothing untrue about my statement.’
A number of online polls show that many people believe Wilders rather than the ministers is telling the truth.
Furthermore, independent MP Rita Verdonk had got it ‘quite wrong’ when she accused him of weakening the right to freedom of expression in the Fitna affair, Balkenende said.
The cabinet had put nothing in the way of the film’s release, he argued. ‘We are pleased that we were so well prepared, but that has nothing to do with freedom of expression,’ news agency ANP reported the prime minister as saying.

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