Geert Wilders’ testimony will take so long to be heard at his trial for inciting hatred and discrimination, that he should be first heard in private by another judge, the public prosecutor said on the first day of hearings on Wednesday.
Outlining the prosecution case, lawyer Birgit van Roessel said initial extensive questioning about all Wilders’ statements would place ‘a major burden’ on the court. In addition, the hearing will take place in front of a large audience who may react to his statements, she said. So it must be asked if the hearing can take place ‘in the desired order and calm’, she told the court.
The leader of the anti-Islam PVV party faces several charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims, Moroccans and non-Western immigrants.
Today’s hearing is a procedural one to determine which when the main sessions will be held and who will be called as witnesses. The hearings will resume on February 3, after judges have considered the opening arguments of both sides and decided on the witness roster.
Van Roessel said the prosecution only plans to call Wilders to the stand. She called on the judges to suspend the trial until Wilders has been interviewed by an investigating judge. The results of those interviews would then be added to trial documents and the case could continue.
Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz began his defence by calling on judges to halt the trial, arguing the public prosecution department had wrongly brought the case against the MP. He also called for the trial to be moved to the Hague, because that is where Wilders works.
The MP wants to call 17 witnesses including criminal law professor Theo Roos, several radical imams and Mohammed Bouyeri – the man who murdered film maker Theo van Gogh. Wilders has described Bouyeri as ‘living proof’ that Islam inspires people to violence.
During his opening statement, Moszkowicz said Wilders maintains that he spoke the truth. His statements must be seen in the context of political and social debate, the lawyer said.
Earlier, Nos tv reported that the public prosecution department is considering asking the court to find Wilders not guilty.
Sources told the tv station the department is not convinced Wilders’ statements break the law. Today’s case has been forced to court by anti-racism campaigners after the department said it would not prosecute him.