Last week, the pretrial for the popular Dutch politician Geert Wilders ended negatively for the defendant and for the right to free speech.
Geert Wilders stands trial on the charge of insulting Muslims as a group and inciting hatred via his sharp critiques of the Koran and Islam. During the pre-hearings, Wilders requested to call 18 expert witnesses. His wish list consisted of three categories: renowned legal experts on freedom of speech; experts on Islamic ideology; and jihadist “experiential experts,” such as the killer of Theo van Gogh. The first category of witnesses would argue that harsh critique or rejection of a religious group by a politician is legal, as long as there is a factual basis and a public interest in the things he says. The second category of experts would state that the Koran and Islam form a violent and totalitarian ideology. And the third group of witnesses would testify they observe Islamic law by practicing jihad.
The court ruled it will only hear three of Wilders’ witnesses. All three are experts on the Koran and Islam, and are severe critics: Syrian-American anti-Islam activist Wafa Sultan and Dutch Arabists/Islamologists Hans Jansen and Simon Admiraal.
By rejecting to hear any experts on freedom of speech, the Amsterdam district court played down the immense issue at stake in this trial: Is there room to criticize the Koran and Islam in a European constitutional state? Does even a member of parliament not have the right to do so outside of parliament itself?
By hearing so few experts on Islam, the court showed disinterest in learning the truth about the religion. The truth could define Islam as a totalitarian threat to Dutch open society. This would give Geert Wilders the legal right to speak out against it outside of parliament.
The three expert witnesses will be heard by an examining magistrate behind closed doors. Says Wilders:
Apparently, the truth about Islam must remain a secret.
The hidden hearings will take place in the coming three to four months. Five public sessions will be scheduled for this summer or fall. During these sessions, no witnesses will be heard. Only the written reports of their testimonies behind closed doors will be presented.
Geert Wilders keeps hoping and fighting for justice:
I’m still counting on an acquittal.
Wilders also criticized the trial as unjust:
This court doesn’t want me to have a fair trial. I can’t have any respect for this. This court would not be out of place in a dictatorship.
You can follow the trial at www.wildersontrial.com.