[JURIST] The Dutch Public Prosecution Service (OM) [official website, in Dutch] on Friday concluded its case [prosecution materials, in Dutch] against right-wing politician Geert Wilders [personal website; JURIST news archive] by asking for Wilders' acquittal on all charges [materials, PDF]. The prosecutors' request is based on a determination that the politician's statements were directed at Islam and not Muslims themselves, and that they were within the realm of public debate as commentary on matters such as immigration. Additionally, prosecutors noted that the available evidence is insufficient to demonstrate that Wilders intended to incite violence or create divisiveness amongst the Dutch population. Wilders, whose trial began earlier this month [AP report] before the Amsterdam District Court, frequently calls Islam "fascist," has compared the Quran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and advocates barring Muslims from immigrating to the Netherlands. The defense is scheduled to begin presenting its case [AP report] next week, and a verdict is expected next month. Wilders faces up to one year imprisonment or fines if convicted.
Wilders' trial was suspended [JURIST report] earlier this month after a lawyer representing him accused one of the judges of bias. Days prior, Wilders announced [JURIST report] that the Dutch government will attempt to ban the burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full Islamic veils to secure the support of Wilders' Freedom Party [party website, in Dutch] in forming a coalition government. An Amsterdam trial court ruled in February that it had jurisdiction to try Wilders for anti-Islamic statements, rejecting [JURIST report] Wilders' claim that, as a member of parliament, he should be tried by the Supreme Court. That court found that his alleged crime was committed outside his capacity as an MP. Last year, the OM announced that they would prosecute Wilders following a January 2009 court order [press releases, in Dutch] by the Amsterdam Court of Appeals. Much of the controversy stems from Wilders' 15-minute film, Fitna, which shows images of the Quran alongside images of violence and says democratic values are threatened by the increasing number of Muslins in Europe.