February 12, 2009 / 3:52 PM / 9 years ago

Dutch anti-Islam politician turned away from Britain

LONDON (Reuters) - Right-wing Dutch legislator Geert Wilders, who is being prosecuted at home for anti-Islam remarks, said he was barred from entering Britain on Thursday after he landed in defiance of a government ban.

Dutch right-wing MP Geert Wilders poses for Reuters at The Hague in this 2006 file photo.REUTERS/Michael Kooren/Files

Wilders wanted to show his film “Fitna,” which argues that the Koran incites violence, in the British parliament. But he was told by British authorities on Tuesday that he was being excluded. Despite that, he took a flight to London.

“I am in a detention centre at Heathrow ... I will not be allowed to enter the country. They will send me back within a few hours,” Wilders told Reuters from the airport.

“It is a very sad day, not only for me, but for freedom of speech,” he said.

The Home Office said he would not be allowed entry into the country, but gave no other details.

Wilders told Dutch television on Tuesday that the British government had sent him a letter saying it believed his statements about “Muslims and their beliefs, as expressed in your film ‘Fitna’ and elsewhere, would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the United Kingdom.”

Wilders’ exclusion caused a diplomatic spat between the Netherlands and Britain.

“It is highly regrettable that a Dutch MP (member of parliament) should be denied entry to another EU country,” Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen said in a statement on the Dutch Embassy’s British web site.

It said Verhagen had telephoned David Miliband to “express his displeasure” that a Dutch member of parliament had been excluded.

Miliband defended the decision. “A hate-filled film designed to stir up religious and racial hatred in this country is contrary to our laws,” he told the BBC.

The Netherlands has condemned the film, which was aired over the Internet last March, saying it served no other purpose than causing offence. An Amsterdam court has ordered Wilders’ prosecution for inciting hatred and discrimination based on comments in various media on Muslims and their beliefs.

Additional reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Myra MacDonald

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