Freedom Party Leader Geert Wilders criticism of Islam in newspapers and a film weren’t intended to defame Muslims, his lawyer told a Dutch court and asked for his client’s acquittal on incitement of hatred charges.
“Criticism on religion should be possible,” Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz told the Amsterdam District Court today. “When Wilders says something about Muhammad, that doesn’t incite discrimination against Muslims.”
Wilders, 47, is on trial for calling the Koran “fascist” and comparing it to Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf in a 2007 Dutch newspaper editorial. A year later, he released his movie “Fitna,” in which he calls on Muslims to rip out “hate-preaching” verses from the book.
“Wilders finds it terrible he needs to answer to a criminal court for his comments” as a politician and has chosen to remain silent, Moszkowicz told Presiding Judge Jan Moors. “This trial puts a heavy burden on his political existence.”
The new minority government of the Liberal Party and Christian Democratic Alliance relies on Wilder’s Freedom Party to pass legislation. It plans to cut immigration and ban full-face Islamic veils, key issues for Wilders’ party, which more than doubled its representation in parliament in June elections.
Prosecutors last week said Wilders should be cleared of all charges, including defaming Muslims, because he “aims his criticism at Islam and not at Muslims.” The court can still convict Wilders in its ruling scheduled for Nov. 5.
Wilders, who is under police protection, faces as long as a year in prison or a fine of as much as 7,600 euros ($10,650).