The commencement of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders’ trial for discrimination dominated Dutch press this week. The right-wing politician is standing trial on charges of inciting racial hatred against Muslims, insisting on his right to speak out about “Islamization”. Although as an MP Wilders has immunity for any comments made in parliament, he is not protected for anti-Muslim comments made in public to the media.
Numerous politicians from Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) attended the hearing, as well as 300 protestors demonstrating in his defense. In the courtroom Wilders stated his belief that the trial is politically motivated, and that his defense will rest on the fact that he is “telling the truth”. He urged the court to permit his list of 17 expert witnesses, including university professors, radical imams, and Mohammed Bouyeri, the man who murdered film maker Theo van Gogh, to be called to testify. The prosecution is not planning to bring any witnesses to the trial, public prosecutor Birgit van Roessel announced.
The trial is set to resume on February 3, following a two week recess during which the court will determine how to proceed through the trial.
In addition to reporting on the trial, a number of daily newspapers ran commentaries and opinion pieces. Dutch News posted a poll asking whether Wilders should face prosecution for inciting hatred. Radio Netherlands Worldwide juxtaposed Wilders’ position on tolerance with South African poet Antjie Krog and lawyer Gerard Spong. Its in depth coverage also considered whether Wilders’ has broken the law, and questions how he will finance his defense campaign.