Geert Wilders Acquitted By Dutch Court on Hate Speech Charges
Wilders, the anti-Islamist politician, was acquitted by a Dutch court on grounds that his speech was protected speech under Dutch law.
As in the US, free speech allows people to say highly distasteful or hateful things but which are protected under free speech/expression laws.
Mr. Wilders, 47, had faced a possible one-year prison sentence on five charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims. He has become an important force in Dutch politics, making provocative statements including comparing the Koran with “Mein Kampf” and calling for an end to Muslim immigration.
Mr. Wilders also made a short film, “Fitna,” in 2008 portraying Islam as inherently violent, and joined Newt Gingrich in New York last August to oppose the building of a mosque near the World Trade Center.
But the presiding judge of the Amsterdam District Court, Marcel van Oosten, found that Mr. Wilders’ actions, while offensive, were protected speech. In dismissing the charges, the judge described some of Mr. Wilders’s comments as “rude and denigrating,” and others as “on the edge of what is allowed,” Radio Netherlands reported.
Mr. Wilders’s supporters clapped as the judge concluded his remarks.
Prosecutors had themselves called for Mr. Wilders’s acquittal, saying his comments did not meet the definition of criminal speech.
“It’s not only an acquittal for me,” The Associated Press quoted Mr. Wilders as telling his supporters, “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.”
So, while I applaud the decision not to convict, that is a separate discussion from whether Wilders is right or justified in his speech. He is a firebrand and his anti-Muslim agenda goes beyond stopping Islamists to xenophobia and opposition to all Muslims.