A Dutch court approved on Friday a request from anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders to have new judges for his trial on charges of inciting hatred against Muslims, forcing the court to start the case over again.
Wilders’ lawyer had asked the court to replace the current judges because of concern about their potential bias after they did not immediately approve a request to take testimony from a witness the Defense considers crucial to its case.
The ruling is seen as another victory for the outspoken Wilders, who plays a key role in supporting the new minority Dutch government after his anti-immigration Freedom Party was one of the big winners at the June elections.
“This gives me a new chance of a new fair trial. I am confident that I can only be acquitted because I have broken no law, but spoken the truth,” Wilders told Reuters, adding he has only exercised freedom of speech.
Wilders’ trial: lawyer calls again for judges to be dismissed
Geert Wilders’ trial on inciting hatred charges in Amsterdam took a new twist on Friday after it emerged another court official may have tried to pressure one of the defence witnesses.
The allegations, in De Pers newspaper, led Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz to again ask for the judges to be dismissed because they refused to rule on whether the witness should be recalled.
The newspaper report focused on a dinner attended by Hans Jansen, a retired professor of Arabic studies, which was also attended by an Amsterdam appeal court judge.
The judge, Tom Schalken, was part of the court which in January 2009 ruled the public prosecution department should take Wilders to court.
During the dinner, Schalken tried to ‘convince me of the correctness of his decision to take Wilders to court,’ Jansen told the paper.
The judge’s behaviour was ‘ill-manned and unprofessional,’ Jansen was quoted as saying by Nos tv.