Groundbreaking conviction for hate on the web

Searchlight January 2010

"Semi-public" internet websites do not exist, according to the verdict of an Amsterdam court at the end of November. Also, ruled the court, anyone who posts discriminatory texts on the obscure outskirts of the internet, chooses to be public and, therefore, can be punished if the material posted breaks the law.

These groundbreaking legal decisions mean that Jos Heitmann, who published offensive material about gays, black people, migrant women and Jews on internet in 2005 and 2006, is now a convicted criminal after being acquitted for intentional discrimination last year by the Amsterdam European Court.

At that time, the latter court, which deals with cases in which, besides national law, the European human rights law is also concerned, judged that Heitmann had not produced his "writings" in public, but on the hard- to-find website Polinco (Politically Incorrect).

Anyone wishing to react to the website had to register and thus, according to the European Court court, Heitmann could assume that only like-minded people could be reached with his writings. Nobody would "accidentally" read them. Even though the court found the texts published by Heitmann unacceptable, it let him off because it was not, apparently, discrimination with intent.

Now, following the overturning of that ruling, Heitmann has been sentenced to a two years conditional fine of € 900 (£820). That means he only has to pay if in those two years he breaks the law again. That might now be difficult as his computer and hard drives have been confiscated.

Meanwhile, on the supposedly "more reasonable" shores of the far-right, right-wing populist Geert Wilders, encouraged by the results of a referendum in Switzerland wants a similar ballot on minarets in the Netherlands.

In particular, the Freedom Party (PVV) leader is calling on the Dutch government to hold a referendum knowing that the Netherlands has no constitutional provision for binding referenda that has binding effect and that that the government will deny his request in order to make a political point.

In the meantime, Wilders has manouevred himself into one of his favorite positions again by deciding to join a parliamentary trip to Turkey at the start of 2010. His aim, it appears, is to tell the Turks why they never ("Not in a million years") cannot join the European Union.

"There is, " he has declared, "enough Islam in Europe. More of this violent ideology and backward culture is undesirable".

Spokesmen for the Turkish government responded to Wilders by emphasising they would not want to talk to "a racist and a fascist" while others indicated they would like to discuss with him.

The Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen queried the Turkish government's refusal to meet with Wilders but also stressed that it is its own decision. "Wilders," she said, "only uses free speech and freedom of travel when he can use it but when others use their right to free speech against him, he explodes".

Wilders replied by branding anyone who backs the decision of the Turkish government a "coward" and also demanded guarantees that he would not be deported from Turkey to Jordan, where a charge against him has been filed.

However, the trip has now been postponed unilaterally by the Dutch parliamentary group, stating that it would not allow the Turks to interfere with the visit's agenda, despite the fact that meeting with Turkish ministers was only a small part of the arrangement.

Simple rage is never enough for Wilders, however. He has to go ballistic and, true to form, did so with opinion article in the daily De Volkskrant, hailing the Turkish army, which has staged several anti-parliamentary military coups and committed various crimes against humanity, as "defenders of Turkish democracy" and voicing his disagreement couldn't agree with EU-calls for the army "to withdraw to barracks".

With media attention focused on Wilders' trip to Turkey, fewer headlines have been reserved for the flop by his spokesman on education, Martin Bosma. Bosma, named as the future Minister of Education if the PVV enters the government in 2011, fared miserably in a parliamentary debate about education policy. Desperate to make headlines, he stated that every school in The Netherlands should raise the Dutch flag. Asked about his policy, he could not produce a reasoned argument and had to sit down humiliated.

Not all Wilder's travel plans go smoothly either. His announced trip to the Czech Republic to show his anti-Islam video clip Fitna, has been cancelled. Wilders' invitation came from Czech senator Jan Oberfalzer (from the governing Democratic Popular Party) but was quickly withdrawn, however, after public criticism.

Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net in Amsterdam