Dutch politician's trial for anti-Islamic statements begins before new judges

[JURIST] The Amsterdam District Court began the new trial of right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website; JURIST news archive] Monday after replacing the previous panel of judges. The replacement panel will now hear the case [BBC report] against Wilders, which stems from charges that he made inflammatory statements against Islam, calling the religion "fascist" and comparing the Koran to Hitler's book Mein Kampf. An independent appeals panel dismissed the original judges [JURIST report] in October amidst allegations of bias against Wilders that his lawyer argued was illustrated by their refusal to allow the defense to recall a witness. Wilders' initial trial was scheduled to conclude in November, and he intends to call witnesses and present evidence that was barred during that trial. If convicted on the charges, he faces fines or a maximum sentence of one year in prison.

Prior to their dismissal, the panel members heard the prosecution's case, which culminated in a request that Wilders be acquitted on all charges [JURIST report]. The prosecutors based their request on determinations that the politician's statements were directed at Islam and not Muslims themselves and additionally, that the evidence failed to establish that he intended to incite violence. The presentment of the prosecution's case followed an order from a panel of Dutch judges to resume the trial after rejecting claims of judicial bias [JURIST report]. The trial had previously been suspended [JURIST report] after a lawyer representing Wilders accused one of the judges of making a statement which cast him in an unfavorable light to the jury. Prior to the start of his trial, Wilders announced [JURIST report] that the Dutch government would 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.

 

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