Dutch anti-Muslim leader goes on trial Monday

By Thomas Burmeister


AMSTERDAM – Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders goes on trial Monday for inciting racial hatred, as his party – the third largest in parliament following June elections – prepares to work with the Netherlands’ new ruling coalition.

Numerous supporters of Wilders – including nearly all of the 24 parliamentarians of his Party for Freedom (PVV) – are set to attend proceedings at the district court in Amsterdam. Wilders is facing charges of incitement to hatred, discrimination against Muslims and insulting Moroccans and other non-Western foreigners.

He is responsible for the anti-Islam film “Fitna” and has made numerous provocative statements about Muslims in speeches and interviews. If convicted, the 47-year-old faces up to 16 months in prison and a fine of up to 10,000 euros.

Wilders, who denies the charges, says he is convinced that Islam represents a serious threat to democracy. His lawyers have demanded that experts critical of Islam be called to testify at the trial in order to defend his theory.

The trial comes after a congress of the centre-right Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) on Saturday voted overwhelmingly in favor of entering a minority coalition government which would rule with the support of Wilders’ party.

The PVV would not be represented in the Cabinet but as the CDA-People’s Party for Democracy and Freedom (VVD) coalition will only have 52 seats in the 150-seat parliament, Wilders’ party will hold the balance of power on important votes. A verdict on the trial is expected early next month.