Dutch Prosecutors Move to Drop Charges Against Geert Wilders

Wilders has been acquitted on all counts, but that’s not quite true. Presumably all charges will now be dismissed — Radio Netherlands says the case is as good as over — but it’s not the prosecutors who have been Wilders’s chief tormentors in all this. It’s the courts, who actually forced them to press charges against him for “sowing hatred” early last year. So in theory, they could refuse the prosecutors’ motion and demand that the case proceed. Which, of course, will only succeed in making him even more popular in the Netherlands by turning him into a free-speech martyr.

The ostensible charges here are group defamation and inciting hatred, but really it’s just a blasphemy trial by the back door. And that’s why prosecutors want him released. If denouncing a religion is a hate crime against its adherents, then not only is blasphemy back in full force but you’re way, way down the slippery slope of placing certain subjects beyond criticism.

The prosecutors consistently came to the same conclusion. What Wilders said may be ‘hurtful to Muslims, and may be met with emotional responses’, but he did not break the law…

Ms van Roessel and Mr Velleman said Wilders’ statements were not directed toward Muslims as people, but towards Islam. “Stop the tsunami of Islamisation” , or “the Qur’an is the Muslim Mein Kampf” are clearly directed at Islam. Wilders’ film Fitna falls into the same category…

Another qualifying factor is that Wilders’ comments were part of a broader social debate, and were part of a political programme that would get implemented in a democratic manner. The nature of the programme itself is irrelevant, as are his motivations for saying or writing what he did.

Said Wilders afterwords, “I don’t insult, I don’t incite to hate and I don’t discriminate. The only thing I do and will continue doing is speak the truth.” I’m reasonably confident that any similar trial in the U.S. would have been dismissed quickly. Not totally confident — who the hell knows what goes on in the mind of Stephen Breyer or likeminded leftist jurists — but the First Amendment’s exception for incitement is presently limited to cases where violence is imminent. I.e. you can’t say “burn that building!” to a crowd that’s ready to riot, but you’re pretty much covered in all other cases. Or at least, you are at the moment.

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