Free Speech in the Dock

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Geert Wilders will go on trial in Amsterdam a week from tomorrow. His “crime” was to speak the truth about Islam in such a way that Muslims were offended.

From the Legal Project blog, here’s a brief summary of what’s at stake:

Liberty on Trial in Dutch Court
by Aaron Eitan Meyer

On January 7th, it was reported that Minnesota prosecutors had declined to prosecute a man who had posted anti-Muslim images, on the grounds that it was, as Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall aptly put it, a “classic First Amendment case.” Indeed, the case would only have been significant if prosecutors had attempted to bring charges.

In marked contrast, the upcoming criminal trial of Dutch politician Geert Wilders for having “intentionally offended a group of people, i.e. Muslims,” and the potential of a two-year prison sentence for this ‘crime,’ is nearly unfathomable.

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Under the Dutch Penal Code, if the court finds that Wilders made his statements as part of his “profession or habit,” he could face up to two years in prison, which makes the charge analogous to a felony under US law.

In short, the Wilders trial, which is scheduled to begin on January 20th, will provide a litmus test as to whether the Netherlands, and to an extent Europe, is moving towards protecting or criminalizing the free speech America has always understood to be a fundamental bulwark of liberty. We can only hope that the Netherlands chooses to defend the right to speak critically of others without the fear of imprisonment.

More posts on Geert Wilders from the Legal Project may be found here.

Hat tip: A. Millar.

2 thoughts on “Free Speech in the Dock

  1. The legal bedrock of this case reaches down to whether truth is the best defense.
    Europe has long been on the path of criminalizing Free Speech.

    This trial is little more than the naked attempt to appease Islam for Wilders’ production of the movie “Fitna”. Being that Fitna is based entirely upon verbatim passages of the Qu’ran−albeit shrwedly placed into context along with recent terrorism footage−this trial then boils down to whether it is the strict privilige of Muslims to quote the Qu’ran in whatever context they wish while disallowing non-believers any such rights. The common excuse being that these sort of actions constitute “blasphemy” or the more recent crime-du-jour of, “inciting religious hatred”.

    A simple analogy is found in how many ethnic minorities frequently use the most degrading racial expletives towards each other yet take monumental offense if a member of another race uses that same epithet in common speech. Muslims in Indonesia are currently engaging in violent protests over the established right for Christians in that country to use the word “Allah” in their own services, despite government recognition of Islam as a de facto state religion.

    The global journalistic community’s thundering silence regarding all things Islamic bodes ill for the firestorm of international protest that should follow on the heels of any conviction of Geert Wilders.

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