Dutch politician acquitted of hate speech charges
23 Jun, 2011 07:38
Right-wing lawmaker Geert Wilders, who has been standing trial for inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, has been acquitted of all charges by a Dutch court.
According to Associated Press reports, the court ruled that Wilders’ public statements may be offensive to many Muslims, but have never breached the bounds of legitimate political debate.Judge Marcel van Oosten stated on Tuesday that the controversial speeches, which resulted in Wilders being brought to court, should be viewed in a broader political context of debate over immigration policy. He said the politician’s comments could not be directly linked to discrimination against Dutch Muslims.Wilders has called for a ban on Muslim immigration, the Koran and the building of mosques in the Netherlands. He also claims that Islam is intrinsically violent.As the verdict was announced, Wilders’ supporters applauded. He smiled as he left the courtroom.Paul Nuttall, a UK Independence Party MEP, believes it was a victory for free speech.“We fought two wars in the last century in Europe for free speech,” he said. “Free speech is something that we should be happy about, it is something we should protect. And the acquittal of Geert Wilders is a victory for free speech and it is a victory for common sense.”He believes political correctness is a massive problem across Europe.“Think about it – where is the liberal outrage with respect to Geert Wilders’ trial?” he asked. “If you turned it on its head, and it was a Muslim politician criticizing Christianity who was put on trial, there would be outrage from the liberal establishment right across Europe.”Philip Claeys, a member of the European Parliament, believes that everyone should have the right to speak freely and openly on problems like mass immigration and multiculturalism, as well as problems with Islam.“I think it’s not prohibited to offend people,” he said. “In any debate, people can be offended. That is not always nice, but it is a byproduct of any debate, of freedom of speech and democracy.”