Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Wilders cleared of race hate charge

A Dutch court ruled that right-wing politician Geert Wilders's anti-Islam statements fell within the bounds of legitimate political debate

Right-wing politician Geert Wilders has been cleared by a Dutch court of hate speech and discrimination.

The court ruled that his anti-Islam statements, while offensive to many Muslims, fell within the bounds of legitimate political debate.

Presiding judge Marcel van Oosten said Wilders's claims that Islam is violent by nature, and his calls to halt Muslim immigration and ban Muslim holy book the Koran, must be seen in a wider context of debate over immigration policy.

The Amsterdam court said his public statement could not be directly linked to increased discrimination against Dutch Muslims.

He looked unmoved as the verdict was read, but his supporters in the public gallery hugged one another and clapped after the acquittal.

Wilders, one of the most powerful and popular politicians in the Netherlands, was accused of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims through numerous public statements, written articles and a short film as well as insulting them by comparing Islam with Nazism and the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf.

Wilders said outside the court: "I'm incredibly happy with this acquittal on all counts.

"It's not only an acquittal for me, but a victory for freedom of expression in the Netherlands. Fortunately, you're allowed to discuss Islam in public debate and you're not muzzled in public debate. An enormous burden has fallen from my shoulders."

The court found that Wilders's rhetoric was "on the edge of what is legally permissible" but not illegal.

The judge described statements about a "tsunami" of immigrants as "crude and denigrating", but legally legitimate given the wider context and his acknowledgement that those who integrate are acceptable and do not call for violence.

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