Geert Wilders criminally prosecuted

The Amsterdan Court of Appeal has ordered the criminal prosecution of Dutch MP Geert Wilders (you know, the Fitna guy). I do not have time to elaborate on this right now, but I thought the Court’s argumentation (see first link) makes for some nice debating material. Two snippets:

The Court of Appeal has considered that the contested views of Wilders (also as shown in his movie Fitna) constitute a criminal offence according to Dutch law as seen in connection with each other, both because of their contents and the method of presentation. This method of presentation is characterized by biased, strongly generalizing phrasings with a radical meaning, ongoing reiteration and an increasing intensity, as a result of which hate is created. According to the Court of Appeal most statements are insulting as well since these statements substantially harm the religious esteem of the Islamic worshippers. According to the Court of Appeal Wilders has indeed insulted the Islamic worshippers themselves by affecting the symbols of the Islamic belief as well.

And Godwin is in there too:

However, the Court of Appeal makes an exception as regards insulting statements in which a connection with Nazism is made (for instance by comparing the Koran with “Mein Kampf”). The Court of Appeal considers this insulting to such a degree for a community of Islamic worshippers that a general interest is deemed to be present in order to prosecute Wilders because of this.

BBC News article here. Maybe more later.

33 thoughts on “Geert Wilders criminally prosecuted

  1. Whether or not you agree with Wilders freedom of speech means nothing if offensive speech is not allowed. The Europeans are on a dangerous road with this approach.

  2. The dozens of European countries likely have as many different approaches to this issue. In this specific example, I doubt the Netherlands, one of the worlds’ freest societies, is on a “dangerous” road. There is a law against incitement to violence and hatred. The incitement part is uncontroversial. The hatred bit is rarely applied and very rarely leads to convictions. Even if Wilders gets convicted, he is unlikely to face a much stiffer sentence than public apology. He is facing moral pressure, not the torture chamber. Wilders is perfectly free to disagree forcefully with the Quran, in slightly more specific and dispassionate language. It is his suggestion that muslims are a Nazi fifth column undermining the existence of Dutch society which, according to the court, creates a reasonable case against him.

    I think American(?) criticism like the above on issues like trial by jury, separation of church and state, or freedom of speech, takes one specific solution to the design of checks and balances as the only solution. The Dutch constitution, jurisprudence, the European treaty of human rights, etc.etc. create protections which are merely slightly different rather than weaker. These protections are not meaningless. The Netherlands scores extremely highly on rankings of human freedom and leads the world in press freedom. It is the entire legal (and socio-economic) framework which generates this result. You can’t judge the system by means of one law which is used, carefully, to pressure neo-nazi groups.

  3. Suppose there is a fifth column. How could you discuss it? Such decisions are very wrong, especially against a member of parliament.

  4. Giving Wilders more attention is always a bad idea. This ruling is a very bad idea. The trial of Wilders is going to be a disastrously bad idea. One big freaking spectacle of a culture war while the Netherlands ignores that it now exists in a time of consequences. Silly judges.

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  7. From the pamphlet “aan het volk van Nederland” (to the people of the Netherlands) written by the Dutch nobleman Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol and published in 1781.
    “Als men niet vry tot zyne medeburgers kan spreeken, nog hen by tyds waarschouwen, dan valt het den onderdrukkeren des volks zeer gemakkelyk hunne rol te speelen: hierom is het, dat zy, wier gedrag geen onderzoek kan lyden, altyd zo teegen de vryheid van schryven en drukken yveren, en wel gaarne zouden zien, dat niets gedrukt en verkogt wierd zonder permissie”
    ( If one is not able to speak freely toward his fellow citizens or able to warn them in time, then it will be very easy for the oppressors of the people to play their role. It is because of this that those, whose behaviour cannot withstand investigation, are always acting against the liberty of writing and printing, and would like to see that nothing would be printed and sold without their permission).
    As you can read in the text above, the issue of the freedom of speech is not new in the Netherlands. One of the most famous more resent incidents was in 2002 when the charismatic Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn declared article 7 of the constitution, which guarantee freedom of speech, of more importance than article 1, which forbids discrimination on the basis of religion, life principles, political inclination, race, or sexual preference. Obvious article 1 is an limitation of article 7. So it looks if the Dutch have to choose; going for total freedom of speech and remove article 1, or maintain article 1 and accept that you are not allowed to give certain opinions about subjects that are listed in article 1.
    Ron.

  8. I don’t think there is a choice, especially given Islam’s record towards free speech when it does not agree with Islam. There has to be a bottom line. Political correctness and especially towards a fascist religion is incompatible with freedom. I think the judges who ordered this must be criminally prosecuted. They get a secure job in these times, well-paid and the least they can do is not provoke the rest. Whether Wilders is indicted or not and what sentence will be applied is besides the point.

  9. Ayaan Hirsi Ali was sued too. The judge concluded that she didn’t break the law but that she was looking for the borders and that repeating might well be interpreted as going too far, legally speaking.

    A lot of people feel haunted by the things Geert says. It makes sense to have a judge declare where the borders of the law are. Even if he was found guilty the punishment would be most likely to be an apology, maybe a fine, and a restriction on how he formuates things. We’ve had court cases before and even strong anti-semitic people haven’t been sent to jail.

  10. The distinction of incitement to violence and hatred is a tricky one.

    Take the Rwandan radio channels that substantially contributed to the genocide, when did they actually incite to violence against the “cockroaches” and when did they merely incite to hatred? That said, I broadly agree with you. This kind of legalislation doesn’t really help against Neo-Nazis or similar groups, instead giving them an undeserved halo as purveyors of suppressed truth.

    Some make too much of a religion out of free speech, believing that without a first amendment as interpreted by the US Supreme Court, the country will go in lockstep into dictatorship. If you look into dissent historically and now, you will find no such thing. I think such laws are mostly unnecessary, counterproductive, making the issues murkier, and often the authorities look sillier. And neither Eurabia nor the Eurasia of 1984 is in our future.

  11. I like the suggestion of prosecuting the prosecutors; they are supposed to be constitution caretakers after all.

  12. And what is wrong with incitement of hatred?

    I hate Nazi, drug dealers, pedophiles, terrorists.

    Should I be prosecuted for writing this comment? No? What about if I say that I hate German Nazi, Latinos drug dealers, Islamic terrorists?

    Constitution of every Western country prohibit discrimination based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, country of origin, etc.

    Isn’t it duty of the governments to outlaw religion which actively preaches and practices discrimination (and incite violence against, BTW) based on religion, gender, sexual orientation, skin color, ethnicity, country of origin? Any questions what religion I mean?

    If Fitna contains libel and derogatory name-calling, Wilders should be charged under anti-profanation law.

    It would be no Renaissance, if current “incitement of hatred” laws have been applied rigorously 400 years ago.

  13. I agree that religion shouldn’t allow you to break the law with impunity. In Sweden Ã…ke Green made a vile anti-gay rant that clearly was against Swedish law, but was exonerated because it was spoken from a pulpit and thus it was protected by religious freedom.

    Since the aquittal was by reference to the European Convention on Human Rights, by extension it seems that you can break the law as long as you make sure you do it from a church, mosque, synagogue, or temple (as well as in many countries from the parlament building).

  14. Jax, in The Netherlands there was a similar case. Anti-gay rant + spoken from a pulpit (mosque in this case) = acquittal.

    That stinks.

  15. @Al: *incitement* of hatred is not the same as *expressing* hatred.

    @Guy: Same thing happened to a guy from the ChristenUnie (homosexuals equals thiefs). And as I said, Ayaan was acquitted too – but with a warning that repeating might be seen as more seriously offensive.

    I don’t think Geert will be convicted. But making clear where the borders are is a good thing and in practise I think Geert does incite to hatred, not just expresses his own dislikes – it’s just not bad enough to convict him for.

  16. @R: Ben Cohen doesn’t mention that the laws in Isreal are more strict. Does the conviction of Tatiana Soskin mean that Israel is islamized?

  17. @dutchmarbel: Ben Cohen doesnt mention the laws in Israel … or Russia or Canada or France. He was discussing a particular case in Holland. By the way he is an American.

    Likewise the conviction of Tatiana Soskin in Israel doesnt help your way of thinking.

    Cohen and most others do not support Wilders’ viewpoint but they do support his right to express it. Voltaire after all was European.

  18. @R: I realize that he is American. But if a Dutch catholic writes something about how everybody should have free choice in pregnancy I might refer to the Vatican too and tell him that I agree but there is work to be done in the homestate of his religion too.

    I didn’t say that I thought Geert Wilders should be convicted – I said it was unlikely that he’d be convicted of anything, but that I liked the fact that the judiciary would make the borders of what can and cannot be said more clear.

    Bringing up Voltaire is a strawman. The issue is not wether you are allowed to voice your opinion, the issue is wether what you say might lead to unproportionally damage and danger to other people. Most of his speeches are in Dutch, but this is the transcript of the speech he gave in Jerusalem last month. Once people start saying that followers of a religion are backward people who want to take over your country (and world dominion) and are an active danger to society there is a nasty ressonation for lots op people familiar with our history.

    You realize that Wilders himself wanted to get rid of article one in our constitution (non-discrimination), wanted to ban the Koran and actually officially complained when our minister of Integration appeared at a public event in a dress from an islamic dressmaker? One of the major parties in suing Geert is the lawyer who defended him earlier weirdly enough.

    Wilders should be able to voice his concerns and express his opinion, but people should not be in danger because of what he says. I think that he is searching for the border, but hasn’t crossed it yet – other people disagree. The Dutch judiciary is supposed to interpret the borders and make clear what is and what isn’t allowed under the law. I expect the judge to rule that what Wilders says falls within the legal limits. But I don’t mind people asking the judge to verify that.

  19. @dutchmarbel: You through in Israel because Cohen is Jewish which has nothing to do with the discussion about freedom of speech in Holland.

    So what if Wilders wants to ban the Koran, etc. Its his right to say so.

    In what way does what he says ‘lead to unproportionally damage and danger to other people’?

  20. I think commenters here are missing the point. There is anti-discrimination provision in constitution, which prohibit Walders to refuse hiring of Muslim secretary on the base of her religion affiliation (so far as this fascist theocracy cult is not legally prohibited in Holland). Any other thing, like expression of opinion, should be allowed as basic freedom of speech.

  21. @dutchmarbel
    “the issue is wether what you say might lead to unproportionally damage and danger to other people”
    No. Anything you do or do not do MIGHT lead to undesirable consequences. Driving a car; saying that a referee in a footbal game made a mistake.
    Speaking about nazi war crimes. All these things MIGHT lead to someone getting hurt, or someone deciding to get even for the referee mistake or the nazi crimes. But driving a car does not have a CAUSAL connection to accidents and complaining about a missed call does not causally lead to violence. This way of reasoning is dumb, unscientific and opens the gate to fascism where nobody can say nothing for fear it might have some undesirable effect.

    “Once people start saying that followers of a religion are backward people who want to take over your country (and world dominion) and are an active danger to society there is a nasty ressonation for lots op people familiar with our history”
    So, does this mean if you think that way you are not allowed to speak up? What if there is (at least) some truth to what they are saying?
    And what about vitriolic comments by moslems?
    There we are not talking about what MIGHT happen, but of already commited murders as well as orders to murder(e.g Salma Rushdie). By the same argument, islam should be silenced.

    “But I don’t mind people asking the judge to verify that.”
    No. People have better things to do with their lives than being forced to defend themselves on clearly frivolous cases. This is why I would like to see the judge who ordered the prosecution prosecuted too for frivolous prosecution and for failing to uphold the constitution. If they have such faith in the justice system(which is administered by humans after all), they should not have any immunity either.

  22. @R: You are reading my mind and based on the resutl I wouldn’t trust the technique. I didn’t respond to the fact that he has a Jewish name: the Jews I know come in all varieties with all kinds of opinions. I responded to the fact that he wrote for Jewry.com.

    @others: you have to realize that Wilders is a Dutch politician and has to operate within the Dutch law. Some of you may not realize that we have a system based upon civic law, not common law. In the Netherlands judges can’t change or make laws, they can only interpret them. A number of you argue about how you think our free speech laws *should be*, but that can only be changed by the government.
    Frankly, I don’t think Wilders is a supporter of broadening our laws. More than any other political party he and the PVV have tried to limit the way in which others express themselves and he regularly tries to get people, books, speeches, habits and people banned. There is a long list in Dutch here, but it includes things like the Koran, translations of the Koran, speaking anything but Dutch in governmentsbuilding, wearing Turbans & burqua’s & burkini’s, serving halal meat to muslims, headscarf for teachers, denaturalisation of dual nationality citizens *and their family* when they are convicted, taking the oath of office on the Koran and basically the bannishment or punishment of everybody and everything that critisizes them. Wilders really is no free speech champion.

    @Sam: this pdf is an official translation of the Dutch constitution. Please point me to which part the judge fails to uphold.

    But driving a car does not have a CAUSAL connection to accidents and complaining about a missed call does not causally lead to violence.
    But if there are circumstances where there might be a causal connection, for instance when you have drunk alcohol, you are not allowed to drive a car even if you have an official permit. In other words: the law limits a granted right when it thinks that it might damage others.

  23. @dutchmarbel
    Articles 7 and 6? Also look up article 10 of the European convention of human rights.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Convention_on_Human_Rights#Art._10_-_expression

    Look for example at the first case discussed there. If Wilders’s facts are wrong, then he is liable to prosecution. If it’s opinion, he is not.

    With regard to drunk driving I do not see the connection: Driving is not a human right and being drunk has effects that adversely affect perception and reaction times, hence bear a causal relationship to a decreased driver capability, i.e. the conditions under which the measurement of the driver’s ability to drive were made and which ability is expressed in a driving license , are no longer valid. What anyone says does not affect the ability of anyone else to think and act responsibly, unless of course you refer to people who think they HAVE to asasinate someone just because some mullah or ayatollah said so.

  24. Darn, I typed a long reply but forgot the fill in the spam protection – which means all text is lost.

    In short: article 7 only talks about prior permission. Article 6 and the article 10 in the European convention both allow for curbing free speech if deemed necessary.

    The court case is based upon Dutch Penal Law, mainly article 137 (c, d and maybe e). I couldn’t find an English translation, but you can find the Dutch article in our online Penal Code.

    Rought translation of the article: Everybody who in public, be it verbally or in writing or by pictures, uses hate speech towards a group of people based upon their race, their religion or ideology, gender or their hetero or homosexuality, will be punished with a maximum of 1 year in jail of a fine of the third category.

    Why I think wat Wilders does is bad: Read the Ecri rapport on the Netherlands. Or the last CIDI rapport on Discrimination and Anti-Semitism in the Netherlands (pdf).

  25. Stop talking, start acting
    Isn’t your freedom worth a stamp???

    If Geert Wilders falls, then Freedom of speech is dead in Europe. We are launching an extensive International Action SITA including two possible texts ; one comparing Wilders and Winston Churchill and another Wilders and Charlie Chaplin:

    http://sitamnesty.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/i-support-democrat-geert-winston-wilders-against-islamic-fascism-and-its-dhimmis (Winston Eng)

    http://sitamnesty.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/i-support-democrat-geert-charlie-wilders-against-islamic-fascism (Charlie Eng)

    To support Geert Wilders and our dearly acquired freedoms please participate to the 2 suggested actions and transmit this message to your friends owners of a website in order they publish it.

    An other way to support Geert Wilders is to give some money. To donate: http://www.geertwilders.nl

  26. Please don’t give money. As I said earlier: Geert Wilders is definately not defending freedom of speech in general.

    He is also not great on democracy. Most people don’t realize for instance that his party has only one (1) member. You can donate money, but you can’t become a member and is he wins seats in elections he needs application procedures to fill them.

  27. “then Freedom of speech is dead in Europe”
    … and then hysteria reigns supreme. I think a prosecution is a bad idea, but it is of no consequence for free speech in the Netherlands nor in the rest of Europe.

  28. Even if you strongly disagree with Wilders, giving up the values of western democracy and the Enlightment, such as Voltaire, is unacceptable.
    One may also strongly disagree with communism, socialism or thacherism, but that does not make outlawing such parties or their right to express themselves illegal

  29. @Sam: you miss the point. Wether you like it or not (I like it) we have limits on what you can and cannot say. Wilders deliberately searches the borders and now the judge will decide wether he passed them or not.

    Wilders propagates *more* limits on the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. He just feels that those shouldn’t be applied to him and his ideas.

  30. @dutchmarbel
    “we have limits on what you can and cannot say”
    Why is that in this case? I understand the point about shouting “fire” in a crowded place or libel. I do not understand why there has to be a limit on one’s freedom to say “here is what I do not like about a particular religion and why”. This is NO DIFFERENT from Luther’s criticism of the catholic church and it is extremely disappointing if we revert back to those days in the year 2009. If some people are offended by someone disliking their religion, this is their problem and their religion’s problem. Like it or not their religion’s “values”(do I need to spell them out?) have been and are still being imposed on a number of people. Imposing them on me is simply not acceptable.

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