October 14, 2010

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Wilders Trial: Win One, Lose One

FrontPage Magazine 14 October 2010
By Robert Spencer

On Tuesday, as his trial resumed in Amsterdam on various charges of offending Muslims, Dutch freedom fighter Geert Wilders won one victory and suffered one defeat. This is welcome news for Wilders personally, since any acquittal moves him closer to the end of these nightmarish proceedings; however, the ominous implications of his trial in general for the freedom of speech were reinforced on the same day, and those implications could have deleterious effects far beyond the Wilders trial itself.

First, the good news: public prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman noted that the statements for which he is on trial referred to Islam and the Qur’an, not to Muslims as people – although they did add in the politically correct observation that Wilders’ statements might nevertheless hurt Muslims’ feelings. Despite that assertion, in a burst of logical thinking unusual in these proceedings, they recommended that since Wilders was speaking about Islamic texts and teachings and not Muslim people, the charge against him of group defamation should be dropped.

That was good as far as it went, although Wilders still faces charges of incitement that are as dangerous as they are vague. The danger of such charges was thrown into vivid relief Tuesday by a chilling statement that the prosecutors made: that Wilders will not be allowed to defend himself from charges of inciting hatred by arguing that what he said was true. Said van Roessel: “You can expect a politician to be aware of the impact of his words and in any case, the legal limit may not be crossed, no matter how important it may be to address supposed problems and to contribute to matters of general interest” (...)

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