Geert Wilders, the Dutch far-Right MP, has demanded that his race hate trial should hear evidence from the fanatic who used the Koran to justify killing the director of an anti-Islamic film.
It marked an incendiary opening to the landmark case that has divided the Netherlands over the limits of freedom. Wilders, 46, who is accused of incitement and discrimination, asked for 18 witnesses to be called in his defense, including Mohammed Bouyeri, the man who stabbed and shot Theo Van Gogh in an Amsterdam street in 2004.
The Van Gogh murder left a deep scar on the national conscience. It helped to change the mood of tolerance of Islam, and boosted Wilders’s popularity.
Wilders, whose Party for Freedom came second in the European elections last summer, faces a 70-page charge sheet covering five counts of breaking Dutch law in more than 100 public statements — for example, by likening the Koran to Hitler’s "Mein Kampf" and calling for an end to the “Islamic invasion”. He could be fined or jailed if convicted.
At the opening day of the trial the prosecution objected to the request to hear from Bouyeri, and the panel of four judges adjourned until February 3 to consider which witnesses to call. “This case is about more than Wilders,” Bram Moszkowicz, his lawyer, told the court. “It touches us all. It is such an important and principled question that could have far-reaching consequences.”