Dutch politician and film-maker Geert Wilders (photo, from aljazeera.net), is to be prosecuted for inciting racial hatred against Muslims.
In the beginning of 2008, Mr Wilders made headlines for Fitna, his short-film that juxtaposed shots of the 9/11 attacks on the US with quotations from the Koran, the text Muslims believe to be divinely revealed.
In 2007 he had called for a ban on the Quran and compared Islam to Nazism.
Although the public prosecutor had previously decided against a criminal trial, on Wednesday Amsterdam’s appeals court ordered his prosecution.
A summary of the court’s decision read: “The court considers this so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute Wilders.
“The court also considers appropriate criminal prosecution for insulting Muslim worshippers because of comparisons between Islam and Nazism made by Wilders.”
“Freedom of speech”
The ruling marked a “black day for me and for freedom of speech”, said the MP.
The film’s title is an Arabic word which has numerous meanings including “sedition” and “temptation” and which appears in the Koran. Wilders urged Muslims to tear out what he described as “hate-filled” passages from the religious text.
The film’s screening prompted protests in Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia and Afghanistan, and Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, described the film as “offensively anti-Islamic”.Mr Wilders is the leader of the right-wing Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), which has nine seats in parliament.
Saying his film and interviews were painful for Muslims but not criminal, the public prosecutor’s office ruled against prosecuting the politician last year.
Mr Wilders said he was “shaken” by the latest ruling. “I had absolutely not expected it”, he said.
He added that he saw “the judgment of the court as an attack on the freedom of expression”.
“Participation in the public debate has become a dangerous activity. If you give your opinion, you risk being prosecuted. Who will stand up for our culture if I am silenced?”
The decision has been welcomed by Gerard Spong, a lawyer who joined Islamic groups in pushing for Mr Wilders’ prosecution.
“This is a happy day for all followers of Islam who do not want to be tossed on the garbage dump of Nazism”, said Mr Spong.