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Dutch court rules it has jurisdiction to try politician over anti-Islamic statements

[JURIST] An Amsterdam trial court ruled [judgment, in Dutch; press release, in Dutch] Wednesday that it has jurisdiction to try right-wing politician Geert Wilders [personal website, in Dutch] for statements against Islam. The court rejected [Reuters report] Wilders's claim that he should be tried by the Supreme Court as a member of parliament, finding that Wilders's alleged crime was committed outside his capacity as an MP. The court also rejected all but three [Dutch News report] of the 18 witnesses Wilders had planned to call. The court will hear the three remaining witnesses, all of whom are experts on Islam, without the jury present. Wilders had hoped to defend his criticisms of Islam and show its dangers by calling to the stand Islamic extremists including Muhammed Bouyeri [JURIST news archive], who is currently serving a sentence of life imprisonment for murdering Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh. Wilders's trial is expected to begin June 1.

Last month, the court refused a motion [JURIST report] to drop or dismiss the charges against Wilders. In September, the Public Prosecution Service (OM) [official website, in Dutch] announced that they would prosecute Wilders following a January 2009 court order [press releases, in Dutch] by the Amsterdam Court of Appeals. This decision came after the OM announced in June 2008 that it would not prosecute Wilders [JURIST report]. Much of the controversy stems from Wilders' 15-minute film, Fitna, which shows images of the Quran alongside images of violence and says democratic values are threatened by the increasing number of Muslims in Europe. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the film "offensively anti-Islamic" [JURIST report] after its release. In February 2008, Pakistan blocked access to YouTube's website because it had posted a movie trailer for Wilders' film, but access was restored [JURIST reports] several days later. Indonesia followed suit [JURIST report] in April 2008. The same month, a district court in the Netherlands rejected [JURIST report] a bid by the Dutch Islamic Federation to block Wilders' anti-Quran statements, saying that his comments are protected by the right of free expression and do not constitute speech that incites hate or violence.

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