BREAKING: Judges in Geert Wilders' Free Speech Case Removed from Trial (UPDATED)
The trial of Dutch MP Geert Wilders will have an encore.
In the conclusion to a bizarre trial -- in which the prosecution already called for the acquittal of the defendant -- Wilders' lawyer Abraham Moszkowicz today asked for dismissal of the three judges, and his request was approved by the dismissal commission of the court. Now, the trial will have to start over from the beginning.
Moszkowicz asked for a dismissal after the three judges refused to allow Dr. Hans Jansen to testify regarding a discussion he had with one of the judges of a higher court that ordered the prosecution of Wilders.
In May, Dr. Jansen was invited to attend a dinner party together with one of the higher court judges. This judge started discussing the Wilders trial, and his order to prosecute, with Dr. Jansen. Jansen revealed this on his personal blog last Wednesday. Moszkowicz wanted the judges to hear, in court, Dr. Jansen's impression of this discussion.
Dr. Jansen had testified earlier in this case in a closed setting. Dr. Jansen is one of the foremost Islam experts in the Netherlands. (As is the case in the U.S., judges are not permitted to discuss a case outside the court -- especially with an expert witness for the case.)
The court refused Moszkowicz' request to hear Dr. Jansen. Moszkowicz subsequently asked for dismissal of this court, and after a short session the dismissal commission agreed with him.
Now the trial has been postponed for several months and the news of the activist judge of the higher court has captured today's headlines in the Netherlands.
UPDATE: On Monday night, May 3, a dinner party was hosted by Bertus Hendriks, a well-known pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist journalist and activist in the Netherlands. His guests were a group of friends from various backgrounds, but each one of them belonged to Dutch left-liberal communities.
Professor Dr. Hans Jansen, one of the foremost Islam experts in Holland, a vocal critic of Islamism, and a celebrated translator of the Koran himself, was invited by Hendriks. Hendriks and Jansen belong to opposing ideological groups, but they maintain a cordial relationship.
On his blog published Wednesday, October 20, Dr. Jansen writes about Hendriks: "Bertus once explained to me that he didn’t care that much for the Palestinian problem. It was more, he explained to me since I am a 'bourgeois element of a passed generation' that the Palestinian fate could expose the global structures of exploitation. In other words, he is a friend whose invitation for a dinner party cannot be neglected."
During that dinner party, Dr. Jansen met Tom Schalken. Only after some time passed did Jansen remember who Schalken is: one of the three judges of the Dutch higher court, the "Hof," which ordered the prosecution of Geert Wilders after the DA’s office, after careful review, had decided not to prosecute because of a complete lack of criminal acts on the part of Wilders.
Jansen writes on his blog: "Schalken tried to convince me of the fact that his decision to prosecute Wilders was justified." Jansen describes an unpleasant dinner as he was being confronted several times by judge Schalken and other guests.
Jansen writes: "Mrs. Hendriks had cooked a lovely dinner, but it wasn’t tasteful for me. Apart from me, the other eaters were all distinguished members of the PvdA, the social-democratic party, and Groenlinks, the green leftist party. A couple of them work for the Department of Justice. Judge Schalken wasn’t the only magistrate among them.’
A Dutch newspaper, De Pers, published an article about the blog post in yesterday’s issue. Abraham Moszkowicz, in today’s session, immediately asked the court to hear Dr. Jansen, who was at today’s session as a visitor. The court refused, which caused Moszkowicz to request the dismissal of the court.
In a separate session of the Wrakingskamer, a special stand-by commission of judges who rule about requests to dismiss judges, Moszkowicz explained that Schalken’s behavior, first as an activist judge in a ruling to set aside the DA’s decision not to prosecute Wilders, and now at a dinner party openly discussing a case with a witness (Dr. Jansen was scheduled to testify in closed session on May 6), was legally unacceptable. Dismissal of judges is often requested by lawyers but is rarely granted by the Wrakingskamer. But today, Moszkowicz’s appeal was accepted.
The president of the court was traveling but is on his way back to Amsterdam. In principle, the trial has to start over. But it is clear that the original decision of the Hof is now under heavy pressure.
Also interesting in this case is the exposure of an informal network of activist judges and other leftist individuals, among them one of the most outspoken anti-Zionists in Holland, who have frequent dinner parties among each other. They are free to do so, but sitting judges should be kept to some standards.
The story continues...
UPDATE #2: The president of the Amsterdam Higher Court, Leendert Verheij, issued a press release and described the events at the dinner party attended by both Judge Schalken and expert witness Dr. Jansen "in hindsight unfortunate." He stated that there is a "big discrepancy between the intentions of the participants at the time and the view that now exists."
Abraham Moszkowicz, Wilders’s lawyer, immediately hit back on Holland’s popular late-night political talk show Pauw & Witteman. He explained that the president is interfering with the legal process and should have refrained from any comment since today Wilders filed a complaint against Judge Verheij for trying to influence a material witness. According to paragraph 235A of the Dutch Criminal Code., the DA’s office is now forced to investigate the value of the complaint.
Still, the president of the court, Judge Verheij, already concluded that Judge Schalken’s behavior at the dinner party was only "unfortunate" and diminished the seriousness of the events at the dinner party.
With this statement by the court’s highest authority, Judge Verheij, the rights of Geert Wilders have been seriously reduced.
Moszkowicz denied that the trial against Wilders is political in nature. "It’s not political," he said. "The problem is, it’s not legal."
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