15th October 2010
Yes, the public prosecutor, that’s the arm of the law which decides that there is a case to answer in the first place, has peformed a volte face and has decided that Wilders is NOT GUILTY of any of the charges laid against him. So does that mean he can go home now and get on with his parliamentary life, he and his 24-hour bodyguard? Course not. You mad or something?
Radio Netherlands Worldwide has this on today’s developments in the farcical trial of politician Geert Wilders:
The Geert Wilders trial is as good as over. The public prosecutor has called for the populist politician to be acquitted of all charges against him. The trial will continue, but everything is now an anti-climax.
During two days of intricately constructed arguments, the prosecutors told the court they found no evidence that Geert Wilders had broken the law.
“We request acquittal on fact 2…we request acquittal on fact 3.” Statement after statement, and charge after charge, prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman, who took turns reading the arguments, said Wilders had not broken the law.
The prosecutors consistently came to the same conclusion. What Wilders said may be ‘hurtful to Muslims, and may be met with emotional responses’, but he did not break the law.
The prosecutors analysed each of Wilders’ statements for each of the five charges against him. The charges included group defamation, inciting hatred of Muslims and non-western ethnic minorities, and inciting discrimination of Muslims and non-western ethnic minorities.
The prosecutors based their arguments on a few basic principles. In the first place, there is little jurisprudence in Dutch law to fall back on, particularly in the cases of incitement. The jurisprudence on the European level is somewhat broader, including recent cases decided by the European Court of Human Rights against Jean Marie le Pen in France, and Daniel Féret in Belgium. The lawyers cited both cases, as well as a few cases in Dutch courts.
In addition, prosecutors maintained a very close, cautious reading of the law. Statements have to meet very specific criteria to be considered incitement.
This is particularly true in the case of a politician taking part in a national debate.
Against Islam, not Muslims
For Wilders’ comments to be illegal, they must target a specific group, and be aimed at creating an intrinsic division between two groups.
Ms van Roessel and Mr Velleman said Wilders’ statements were not directed toward Muslims as people, but towards Islam. “Stop the tsunami of Islamisation” , or “the Qur’an is the Muslim Mein Kampf” are clearly directed at Islam. Wilders’ film Fitna falls into the same category.
But prosecutors said this was true even for statements such as saying a neighbourhood of Utrecht is now a “dirty, filthy place because 95 percent of the people who live there now are Muslim”, or ” there is a connection between Islam and crime. These thugs’ behaviour stems from their belief.”
These comments were also seen as part of Mr Wilders’ campaign against Islam, not against Muslims.
Another qualifying factor is that Wilders’ comments were part of a broader social debate, and were part of a political programme that would get implemented in a democratic manner. The nature of the programme itself is irrelevant, as are his motivations for saying or writing what he did.
The fact that some of his programme will now be implemented by the new government, supported by Mr Wilders’ party in parliament, was not even mentioned in court.
Mr Wilders remained stony-faced even while the prosecutors were letting him off the hook. Just twenty-four hours after the cabinet he made possible posed with the Queen. He can allow himself a smile.
It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world indeed.
1. This afternoon the Dutch prosecutor said that ALL CHARGES should be dropped by the court in the Netherlands at the trial of Geert Wilders. It was reported in Dutch News that he was “not guilty of inciting”.
The public prosecution department on Friday afternoon stated that Geert Wilders is not guilty of discriminating against Muslims. Earlier on Friday it announced he should also be found not guilty of inciting hatred.
Prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman reached their conclusions after a careful reading of interviews with and articles by the anti-Islam politician and a viewing of his anti-Koran film Fitna.
They said comments about banning the Koran can be discriminatory, but because Wilders wants to pursue a ban on democratic lines, there is no question of incitement to discrimination ‘as laid down in law’.
On the comparison of the Koran with Mein Kampf, the prosecutors said the comparison was ‘crude but that did not make it punishable’.
Dealing earlier on Friday with incitement to hatred, Van Roessel and Velleman said some comments could incite hatred against Muslims if taken out of context, but if the complete text is considered, it can be seen that Wilders is against the growing influence of Islam and not against Muslims per sé.
On Tuesday, the prosecutors said the MP should not be found guilty of group insult.
The public prosecution department was forced to take the case by the high court after anti-racism campaigners protested at its refusal to prosecute Wilders.
2. In response to this Wilders said he was very happy –
Geert Wilders proclaimed himself ‘very happy’ with the public prosecution department’s announcement on Friday afternoon that he should be found not guilty on all charges of inciting hatred and discrimination.
The anti-Islam MP told reporters: ‘I don’t insult, I don’t incite to hate and I don’t discriminate. The only thing I do and will continue doing is speak the truth.’
Campaigners who took the case to the high court to force the public prosecutors to bring the case against Wilders said they were ‘disappointed’.
‘We hope the court will come to a judgement on a number of the charges,’ a spokesman told reporters.
So, did you, putting two and two together and getting five, assume that meant he had been acquitted? Me too, for a few minutes. It soon became clear that this was not the case. This is only the Prosecutors’ opinion. It is still up to the judges, or panel of judges to decide. Presumably they could ignore the prosecutors and still find him guilty of one or more of the charges. I sincerely hope not.
A few bloggers assumed too that this little factor – the opposing side saying he was not guilty – would mean that he should go free. Such as Atlas Shrugs, whose update explains the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me Dutch Courage. I suppose if he’d been tried under sharia he’d already be dead meat.
- Culture Watch asks – “Just who and what is on trial here?”
- Wilders Walks (reason.com)
- Dutch prosecutors seek acquittal of anti-Islam pol (sfgate.com)
- Dutch prosecutors seek acquittal of anti-Islam pol (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Dutch Prosecutors Seek Acquittal of Anti-Islam Politician (foxnews.com)
- Prosecutors Ask That Geert Wilders Be Acquitted On All Charges (daledamos.blogspot.com)
- Call to drop Geert Wilders case (bbc.co.uk)
- Acquittal for Geert Wilders on a Second Count (gatesofvienna.blogspot.com)
- BREAKING: Prosecutors of Dutch MP Geert Wilders Ask Court To Acquit on All Charges (pajamasmedia.com)
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Tags: Acquittal, Birgit van Roessel, Dutch courage, European Court of Human Rights, Geert Wilders, Geert Wilders trial acquitted, Islam, Law of the Netherlands, muslim, not guilty, Paul Velleman, Prosecutor, quran, Sharia