Geert Wilders was “completely surprised” when he heard on Wednesday that the appeals court of Amsterdam ruled he shall be prosecuted for hate speech and inciting discrimination. Last year the public prosecutor had decided not to try the controversial Dutch member of parliament for his remarks about Islam. In an interview with NRC Handelsblad Wilders says he is "shaken, but also very angry and ready to fight."
"The public prosecutor agreed with me, that I can say what I said. The attorney general at the appeals court has argued the same. I never thought that things would turn out this way," Wilders says. Because of the appeals court ruling, the public prosecutor is forced to prosecute Wilders for statements such as "ban the Koran" and "the core of the problem is fascist Islam", statements Wilders has made in the media and his own film Fitna.
In its detailed order the appeals court says that your statements are a punishable offence. What do you think of the decision?
"I have studied the ruling in depth, and have come to the conclusion that it is a politically motivated verdict. Normally, in these kind of appeals cases, a court rules on subsequent steps and includes an explanation [of its legal logic]. But here the appeals court is entirely focused on the content of the case. Therefore I can no longer get a fair trial. Should I stand before the lower court judge, there will already be a peremptory ruling from the appeals court on his desk. And if I go for an appeal, I end up in the same court. The immediate colleagues of the judges who have already sentenced me, will then be in a position to rule. That is unbelievable. The Wall Street Journal editorial is right. The appeals court is introducing Saudi Arabian legal standards to the Netherlands."
But wasn't there a proper procedure, where you and your lawyer were able to stand up in your defence?
"That is not the case. I have given a statement, but the appeals court has not asked me a single question. I have not been allowed to call any witnesses or experts. This was no normal appeals procedure - this was a political process. They have given a verdict that is content-driven.. I have already been convicted. This is banana justice."
Wilders feels not only that the appeals court’s ruling is a political attack against him, but he says the pending change in Dutch anti-discrimination law is also aimed specifically at his populist PVV (Party for Freedom). Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin (Christian Democrats) wants to do away with the legal ban on blasphemy, but at the same time change anti-discrimination act so that insulting a religion de facto means insulting the group that adheres to it.
"This is simply an anti-PVV proposition. A majority of parliament is likely to be opposed to it. But with this ruling Hirsch Ballin doesn't even need change the law anymore. Thanks to the appeals court, the jurisprudence has simply sailed into becoming law."
You have compared the Quran to Mein Kampf, and called Islam a fascist ideology. Why do you find that these remarks fit within the confines of the law?
"I am not the only one who thinks so. The public prosecutor also agrees, and many professors. Churchill said the same thing."
"I view Islam not as a religion, but as a dangerous, totalitarian ideology - equal to communism and fascism. Aren't I allowed to say so? If I say that about communism, there would not be a problem. I have never talked about people, I've always made it about ideology."
You've referred to the 'Muslim settlers.' Those are people, aren't they?
"That was not about all Muslims. That was referring to the problems in Gouda [where Moroccan youth caused problems that drew nationwide attention last October]. It was just about those Muslim settlers who spoil everything."
But couldn't that make all Muslims feel offended?
"You would be a great appeals court clerk. I am a democrat to the bone. I am allowed to say what I want."
Where do you draw the line?
"At calling for violence. Also, I will not say any base things about entire population groups. The government makes the distinction between western and non-western immigrants. I push it a bit further. But these things need to be thrashed out in the political arena, not in court."
Some critics say all this seems to suit you. You can exploit your role as victim at the hands of the political elite.
"That is a nasty insinuation. I do not want to be before a judge. I do not want to be prosecuted. I want to do my job in parliament. Hundreds of thousands of people have elected me to say what I say. I would need to be condemned if I did not speak my mind. The PVV is doing well. If elections were held today, polls indicate we would get 17 seats [in the 150 seat parliament], our highest mark in two years. The last thing I need is a lawsuit."
The world seems to be infused with new hope from the election of Obama. Isn't your whole approach and tone really 'very 2008'?
"You mean passe? It's not about the tone, it’s about the message. The problems with Islam will only increase. A bit of 'flower power' is fine, but that doesn't suit this isue. Our proposals are vital."