'Trial of the Century' against Wilders begins

Searchlight March 2010

The first hearing in the case against the leader and only member of the rightwing populist Freedom Party (PVV), Geert Wilders, started in an Amsterdam court on 20 January. Wilders is charged insulting a group and inciting hatred and discrimination.

Though the public prosecutor did not want to prosecute Wilders, the Amsterdam Court of Appeal ordered in January 2009 his prosecution after demands (a so-called procedure against non-prosecution) from several persons and organisations.

In response, the public prosecutor has interpreted the Court of Appeal's order of the court more broadly and wants to prosecute Wilders also for insulting Muslims as a group and because he compared Islam with fascism.

Wilders main defence against the charges against him is that he gave all his interviews and made his comments as a parliamentarian and, therefore, should be accorded parliamentary immunity from prosecution wherever his comments were made.

At the initial hearing, Wilders and his lawyer Bram Moszkowicz requested that the public prosecutor read out the entire 20-page indictment, only containing the speeches and comments by Wilders made outside parliament. Among other things, Wilders compared the Koran to Mein Kampf, called Islam "fascist and sick" and urged closure of the Netherlands' borders to non-Western immigrants.

The "read-it-all-out" request is part of Wilders strategy to wring as much publicity and media attention (the trial was broadcast live on television and internet) out of the proceedings and that is why he chose Moszkowicz, a man who loves the glare of publicity, as his lawyer. Interestingly, though, Moszkowicz was his second choice, Wilders having first approached lawyers who had represented members of the banned fascist party CP'86 but who rejected his media-show strategy.

Wilders himself spoke at the end of the hearing, stating: "I believe with my whole heart and soul that our freedom is under threat. Freedom is no longer to be taken for granted, as a fact. I make big personal efforts to defend this freedom because, of all of our rights, freedom is the most precious and vulnerable. I don't complain about this, it's my own choice, I see this as my duty."

The problem with Wilders is that his concept of the freedom of speech is glaringly inconsistent: he claims the very same rights he wants to withhold from others, Muslims for example.

The fascist activist, Mike Bierens, was acquitted by the highest court in the Netherlands when he had put up a poster in his window with the slogan "Stop the cancer that is called Islam" and was then prosecuted for insulting a group. Wilders' lawyer, of course, gratefully uses this verdict for his defence. The irony is that Bierens belongs to a group of nazis that sees Wilders as a "Zionist agent" because of his vocal support for Israel.

The first hearing was only a preliminary. Wilders asked the court, because he thinks Islam should be on trial and not him, for a list of eighteen witnesses to be heard who could back up his case and proving that Islam is a 'violent fascist system'. Among the requested witnesses is Mohamed Bouyeri, the lifelong convicted killer of filmmaker Theo van Gogh who was murdered in 2004. Again, ironically, Wilders and Bouyeri now share the same view of Islam, both interpreting the Islam as a violent religion.

Also requested as defence witness are two Iranian Ayatollahs, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi a prominent professor from Qatar, who is known worldwide by Muslims and has made controversial remarks on Palestinian suicide attacks and against gays as well as the radical Imam Fawaz from The Hague and Robert Spencer from Jihadwatch, who has been collecting money for Wilders' defence and has spoken at the same meetings as addressed by Wilders.

On 3 February, the court ruled that three witnesses could be heard behind closed doors. These are the Dutch Arabists, Hans Jansen and Simon Admiraal, and the Syrian-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan. Her political view is that "the world is witnessing a war between modernity and Islam that Islam will lose".

Wilders aim to have endless public hearings with these witnesses has been thwarted by the court with a ruling that, characteristically, Wilders claimed belongs in a "dictatorship". The next five days of the trial will resume between June and October this year.

Outside the court on 20 January, around two hundred Wilders fans gathered for a demonstration with placards and banners reading "Geert Akbar", "Freedom ends where Islam begins" and "Our freedom ritually slaughtered".

Among the devotees of the Wilders cause were numerous known fascists and aficionados of the extreme right including the notorious activist Ben van der Kooi, a former member of the National Alliance (NA). Also present, were members of Voorpost, Wim Beaux the chairman of the Dutch People's Movement and even a former parliamentarian of the long-defunct Centrum Democrats.

Wilders, of course, distanced himself and his one-man party 'a 100,000 % from the extreme right' but his fellow PVV parliamentarians enjoyed the crowd and found their supporters "heart-warming".

In Brussels, meanwhile, the fascist Vlaams Belang (VB) held a solidarity protest for Wilders at the Dutch embassy. The VB sees the trial as the "attempted organised murder of one of the most important movements in the Netherlands".

Jeroen Bosch for Alert! and Antifa-Net in Amsterdam