This is the fourth day in the Wilders trial. Today and Friday the prosecutor reads the indictment in court (more info on: prosecutor Paul Velleman). It’s a long winded and detailed explanation of how the prosecution thinks the law needs to be applied. It’s quite hard to follow if one is not adequately informed about all legal matters that are involved. Friday, at the end of the indictment, the prosecutor will state the punishment they think Geert Wilders should get. Each charge carries up to one year in jail.
The day started out with a minor disagreement, when the clerk of the court was handed a copy of the prosecutor's plea. Wilders' attorney Bram Moszkowicz raised objections, saying that if the clerk receives a copy, the defence should also have one. The public prosecutor refused on the grounds that the defence would then already know what the prosecutor was going to say (yes, I don't know either...). When the court suggested the clerk return his copy to the prosecutor Moszkowicz went along.
The reading of the prosecutor that followed was mostly about other court cases, historic development of laws involved and how we should interpreted the current laws and how they should be applied. It becomes clear, that exercising free speech on controversial issues like Islam should be considered a mine field.
This is not just theory: Only yesterday the Amsterdam court, the same that ordered the prosecution of Geert Wilders, sentenced a website owner (NL) for discriminatory remarks published on his site, because the text on the websites were offensive for Muslims. Text on the website misdefinitie.nl (NL) compared Muslims with monkeys and cockroaches who have sex with camels and rape blond girls. Also, Muslims were named rats who will slaughter us because we are infidel pigs. The court found the remarks offensive for Muslims and sentenced the website owner (1000 euro fine). Apparently the court has not read the book by Dutch Arabist Hans Jansen who titled his book "Islam for pig, monkeys and other animals" a title based on how the Koran names the unbeliever.
In the reading of the prosecutor in the case against Geert Wilders there were two noteworthy things that were said this morning:
1) The prosecution declared void the numerous claims for damages against Wilders. These are claims made by various individuals who say they 'feel damaged or injured' by Wilders' statements. Most of these claims only claim 'symbolic damages' of one euro and demand the verdict be published on the PVV website of Geert Wilders. The prosecutor stated that it would be impossible to assess what damages, if any, have been inflicted and has asked the court to dismiss these claims.
2) The prosecution has rejected several claims the Amsterdam court used for ordering the prosecution of Geert Wilders. It’s yet difficult for laymen to assess what this exactly means for the court case.
In the afternoon the prosecutor switch from theory to how he wants to prosecute Wilders. Noteworthy in the afternoon speech of the prosecutor:
3) The comparison of Mein Kampf is not punishable by the law, because he is citing a text of Oriana Fallaci. The prosecutor also adds arguments that it would also not be punishable if he would have said them on his own.
4) Because the prosecutor interprets Wilders intentions with Fitna as criticizing Islam, which the prosecution think is allowed, and he does not interpreted his intention as criticizing Muslims as a group, he argues that the opinions voiced in Fitna are allowed and not punishable by the law. He asks for dismissal for the Fitna charges . The argument the prosecution made can be seen as creating case law (Dutch: jurispudentie), that can be used to support future free speech trials.
5) In his 'right to silence' speech at the first trial day Wilders argued that he just told the truth. In what can be considered a reaction to this statement, the prosecutor stated that it is irrelevant whether the statements that lead to the prosecution of Wilders are true or not and it cannot be used as proof of the defendants innocence.
Today Wilders' free speech trial ended with the prosecution asking for the dismissal of all group offence charges. Friday, the trial will continue and we will get to hear the position of the prosecution on the hate crime and discrimination charges.
Judge Schalken (blog post Hans Jansen)
Breaking: Judges in Wilders trial DISMISSED
Wilders Trial - Day 8
Wilders Trial - Day 7
Wilders Trial - Day 6
Wilders Trial - Day 5
Wilders Trial - Day 4
Wilders Trial - Day 3
Wilders Trial - Day 3: Testimony of Arabist Simon Admiraal on Islam
Wildert Trial - Day 3: Testimony of Wafa Sultan on Islam
Wilders Trial - Day 2
Justice minister Hirsch Ballin directing prosecution of Geert Wilders
Trial day 1: Evidence given by Arabist Prof. Hans Jansen (Gov)
Wilder Trial - Day 1
Wilders trial: Court rejects 15 out of 18 witnesses for the defence
Breaking: Geert Wilders on trial January 20th 2010
Breaking: Court orders prosecution of Wilders
In the press:
"this trial—even if Mr. Wilders wins—could silence the brave critics of radical Islam. The West is in a war of ideas against political Islam. If free speech is not protected in Europe, we're already losing."
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wallstreet Journal (11-10-2010)
"if I were to return to Iran having written and spoken out as strongly as I have against the regime's oppressive domestic policies -- I could very well find myself in Mr. Wilders' shoes."
Melody Moezzi (Muslim), Huffington Post
"Although the trial of Dutch MP and critic of Islam, Geert Wilders, and its serious implications for free speech in Europe, is once again creating a furor in the press, another high-profile trial of a critic of Islam -- Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, in Austria -- is being overlooked."
Hudson Newyork - Lawfare in Austria: Is Truth Illegal?
Canadian Press: Prosecutors: Dutch anti-Islam politician can't defend himself by arguing his comments are true