THE HAGUE: The defence lawyer for Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders said Thursday he should be acquitted of hate speech because his statements enjoyed added protection by virtue of his political role.
“He is a representative of the people. Political utterances enjoy more protection than those of ordinary citizens,” Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told judges of the Amsterdam district court on the second and final day of defence pleadings broadcast live via the Internet.
“All his statements are made in the context of political debate.”
Wilders, 47, went on trial on October 4 for inciting hatred by calling Islam “fascist” and likening the Koran to Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”.
Moszkowicz said Thursday that his client “does not propagate hate” against any group of people.
“He refers to a tsunami of Islamisation, not a tsunami of Islamites or Muslims,” the lawyer said.
“He stands up for women who are enslaved ... and mutilated in the name of religion, homosexuals who suffer discrimination and are killed in the name of religion, and people who are stoned to death in the name of religion,” Moszkowicz said.
The prosecution service asked the court for Wilders’ acquittal last Friday, saying his words, though hurtful, were not criminal.
The prosecution service had initially dismissed dozens of complaints against the politician in June 2008, citing his right to freedom of speech.
But appeals judges ordered in January 2009 that he stand trial as his utterances amounted to “sowing hatred” – compelling the prosecution to mount a case against him.
On Monday, Muslims told the court that Wilders was “dangerous” and was dividing the Dutch multicultural society.
Wilders, who will give parliamentary support to a new, rightist coalition government, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine for comments made in his campaign to “stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands”.
Judgment is expected on November 5. — AFP