AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, charged with inciting hatred against Muslims, was being denied a fair trial because his right to the presumption of innocence had been breached by a court ruling ordering him to stand trial, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
Wilders faces prison or a fine on charges he insulted Muslims by comparing Islam to Nazis, in a case seen as a test of freedom of speech in the Netherlands.
“If Wilders is convicted, there will always be the thought that ... he never got the chance to a fair trial. There will always be the conclusion that he was not presumed innocent and this will forever stain the conviction,” Bram Moszkowicz said.
Wilders was only placed on trial after an appeals court ordered prosecutors to press charges, overruling their original stance that the MP was protected by the right to free speech.
Moszkowicz said in his closing address to the court that the appeals court had shown bias, lost sight on the presumption of innocence right and urged the trial court to dismiss the prosecution’s case.
“Wilders did not deserve such a ruling. No suspect deserves that ruling,” the lawyer said.
Prosecutors last week called on the court to acquit Wilders saying politicians have the right to make statements about perceived problem issues in society and that he was not trying to create a violent divide in society.
The new Dutch minority government, made up of Liberals and Christian Democrats which took office last week, is reliant on support from Wilders’ anti-immigration Freedom Party.
Moszkowicz’s statement comes after lawyers representing Muslim groups argued on Monday that Wilders was sparking intolerance in the nation and urged the court to order Wilders pay symbolic damages of 1 euro ($1.39).
Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block