Misguided Wilders TrialA nice WSJ summary of the stupidity of free speech prosecutions, in this particular case the Netherlands trial of Geert Wilders for his criticisms of the Koran and Islam.
Prosecuting Mr. Wilders has backfired in every way imaginable, not least politically. The trial has seemed to confirm his charge that avoiding debate over the implications of Muslim immigration leads to the erosion of Western freedoms, most notably freedom of speech. Despite, or perhaps because of, the trial, Mr. Wilders' Party for Freedom became the third-strongest parliamentary faction in last June's elections. This allowed Mr. Wilders to become a political king-maker by backing the new center-right minority government.This trial is clearly the pet project of some judges on an appeal court.
Meanwhile, as part of his defense Mr. Wilders has been putting the entire Muslim religion on trial. His defense includes not only invoking free speech but also calling expert witnesses to testify on the accuracy of his views of Islam. Before the judges could rule on whether it's a hate crime to compare the Quran to "Mein Kampf," Mr. Wilders wants them to rule on whether he was correct to make the comparison. This is only contributing to further religious animosity.
As unattractive as his expressed sentiments may be, they also qualify as free speech, which is why Dutch prosecutors initially dismissed complaints against Mr. Wilders.Sounds pretty corrupt to me. And, really, a trial the prosecutors don't even believe in!
That should have been the end if it. However, an appeals court overruled the prosecution last year, forcing Mr. Wilders to stand trial. But the prosecutors still believe that no crime has been committed. "Criticism of a religion is not punishable," prosecutor Birgit van Roessel told the Amsterdam district court 10 days ago.
Then the politically charged trial took another twist last week when one of Mr. Wilders' expert witnesses, the Arabist Hans Jansen, wrote on his website that a member of the judiciary had tried to influence him. He said that at a dinner party before he was supposed to testify, one of the appeals judges whose decision compelled the prosecutors to press charges tried to "convince me of the correctness of the decision to take Wilders to court."
This is hardly new, of coursse; France had Houllebecq, and Canada Levant and Steyn. At some point I hope the West will just get serious again. We seem rather buffoonish right now.