Far-right MP Geert Wilders on trial for discrimination against Muslims

Geert Wilders, the far-right MP who likens the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, goes on trial today in a politically charged test of the limits of tolerance and free speech in the Netherlands.

Mr Wilders, 46, leader of the Freedom Party, is charged with incitement and discrimination against Muslims over his outspoken comments attacking Islam and for his film, Fitna, which juxtaposed images of 9/11 and beheadings with verses of the Koran. He has called the Koran “a fascist book” and described Islamic culture as retarded.

Mr Wilders, who has made no secret of his ambition to become Prime Minister, has called his indictment a political trial but the Amsterdam Court of Appeal decided that it was in the public interest to prosecute him because his comments have been “so insulting to Muslims”.

“I am being prosecuted for my political convictions,” Mr Wilders said this week.

“The freedom of speech is on the verge of collapsing,” Mr Wilders added. “If a politician is not allowed to criticise an ideology anymore this means that we are lost, and it will lead to the end of our freedom. However, I remain combative: I am convinced that I will be acquitted.”

The maverick politician was banned from Britain last February on the grounds that he would “threaten community harmony and therefore public security” but travelled to London in October when the restriction was dropped.

He faces up to two years in prison if convicted but his opponents fear that, win or lose, his Freedom Party will receive a boost in next year’s election where it is expected to challenge the ruling Christian Democrats for the largest party vote.



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