Rightwing populist Dutch MP Geert Wilders has enlisted one of the Netherlands’ top lawyers to fight his prosecution over inciting hatred and discrimination. The lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, has confirmed he is taking the case to the country’s Supreme Court, requesting an immediate end to the proceedings. He is calling for the Court to quash the prosecution order “in the interest of the law”. The Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) is the country’s highest judicial body.
The Amsterdam appeals court in January ordered that Wilders must be prosecuted for inciting hatred and discrimination, and for insulting Muslims by describing the Qur’an as “the Islamic Mein Kampf [Adolf Hitler’s political credo]”. Mr Wilders, leader of the opposition Freedom Party, claims he is doing nothing other than exercising his right to free speech, both inside and outside parliament.
Following formal objections by individual citizens and interest groups, the Amsterdam court order reversed a decision by the public prosecutor’s office to refrain from opening a case against Mr Wilders.
On his website, the maverick MP, referring to Mr Moszkowicz, says,“I’ve hired the best lawyer of the Netherlands for a ruthless fight against the charges that I’m facing.”In an earlier case the high-profile lawyer profited from a state’s request to quash a case in the interest of the law, achieving almost by accident his desired result of halting the prosecution in the Netherlands of Surinam’s former strongman Desi Bouterse for his involvement in a series of political murders in 1982. The court declared in 2001 that the Netherlands had no jurisdiction in that case.
According to Ybo Buruma, professor of criminal law at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Wilders’s request to have his case put before the high court has a minimal chance of success. Buruma thinks that public relations are more involved here than the law. Yet he understands why Moszkowicz is exploring this avenue, given the consequences of the verdict in the Bouterse case.
Buruma thinks Moszkovicz could argue that the prosecutor has no jurisdiction in this case. Wilders’ film Fitna and his remarks made in parliament should have been labelled as malfeasance. In that case parliament should have instigated its own proceeding if it feels Wilders has abused the special nature of his position. “And that won’t stand a chance either,” says Buruma.
His Tilburg University colleague, professor Theo de Roos, however, says that it is “not senseless” for Mr Wilders to involve the Supreme Court. Professor De Roos talking to NRC Handelsblad pointed to a case involving nuclear waste disposal. The case was similar in that the public prosecutor refrained from prosecution, but a court took up the case, until the Supreme Court ordered the proceedings to be broken off. And that is exactly the sequence of events that Mr Wilders appears to be aiming for.
However, “if no obvious failure was made here, I don’t see why the prosecution should accept Wilders’ request,” professor De Roos says.
For more information: radionetherlands.nl