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Dutch politician's trial for Anti-Islamic statements suspended soon after it begins

The Amsterdam District Court adjourned the trial [prosecution materials, in Dutch] of right-wing Dutch politician Geert Wilders [personal website; JURIST news archive] Monday after a lawyer for Wilders accused a judge of bias. After Wilders, on trial for making inflammatory statements against Islam, said he would not speak at his trial, a judge commented that Wilders seems frequently to avoid discussion of his positions. A lawyer for Wilders argued that this comment indicated the judge was biased [Bloomberg report], and the court agreed to suspend the trial and consider appointing a new panel. Wilders, whose trial began Monday [AP report], frequently calls Islam "fascist," has compared the Quran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and advocates barring Muslims from immigrating to the Netherlands. The court will announce Tuesday whether it will appoint a new panel of judges.

Last week, Wilders announced [JURIST report] that the Dutch government will attempt to ban the burqa [JURIST news archive] and other full Islamic veils to secure the support of Wilders' Freedom Party [party website, in Dutch] in forming a coalition government. An Amsterdam trial court ruled in February held that it had jurisdiction to try Wilders for anti-Islamic statements. The court rejected [JURIST report] Wilders' claim that he should be tried by the Supreme Court as a member of parliament, finding that his alleged crime was committed outside his capacity as an MP. Last year, 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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