The Process On Trial
Earlier this week, I wrote about the Never-Ending Controversy of Geert Wilders in Holland, and noted that Wilders was back in court on February 7th to hash out some procedural matters: will the trial start up from scratch again, will the venue be moved from the Amsterdam District Court, or will Wilders' trial be dismissed entirely?
On Monday, February 14th, we got our answer. From NIS News Bulletin:
"THE HAGUE, 15/02/11 - The entire court case against MP Geert Wilders will be retried. His lawyer Bram Moszkowicz yesterday obtained the right to conduct his entire defence anew, including challenging the validity of the Public Prosecutor (OM) case.
The lawyer wants to ensure via the challenge - a request to declare the OM's case inadmissible - that the OM loses its right to prosecute. If this is successful the case will have to be dropped. Moszkowicz will among other things argue that it is not possible to prosecute Wilders because he is an MP.
The OM wanted to resume the case where it had been adjourned, meaning the defence would not be allowed to challenge the OM again. Moszkowicz unsuccessfully challenged the OM before. But the judges that handled the case then have been replaced.
These judges decided yesterday that Moszkowicz can challenge the OM again. The district court in Amsterdam also allowed Wilders to call three witnesses. These are Judge Tom Schalken and Islam experts Hans Jansen and Bertus Hendriks. Wilders asked for another 15 witnesses to be heard, but these were all rejected."
There hasn't been a date set for the beginning of the second trial, but it looks like things may be looking up for Geert Wilders. After all, the Dutch Public Prosecutor initially didn't even want to press charges - it was left up to the Dutch Court of Appeals to force the prosecutor to charge Wilders. And even then, days before Wilders' first trial disintegrated due to the impression of bias, the public prosecutor's office said that it didn't think Wilders' comments constituted criminal speech.
Thanks to this ruling, Bram Moszkowicz, Wilders' lawyer, will be able to address the court for a second time and ask for Wilders' case to be dismissed. He will be able to call more witnesses, including Tom Schalken, the appeals court judge that sparked off the final round of controversy that ended Wilders' initial trial. Considering the disarray of the Dutch criminal administration in the wake of the first Wilders trial, one has to wonder at the effect that Wilders' second trial will have if it continues to poke at the issue of judicial bias.
Geert Wilders will not be able to call Mohammed Bouyeri, the murderer of Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh, as a witness - which is a shame. It would have been interesting to hear what Bouyeri had to say about Islam, particularly in Holland. But ultimately this would have been a side-show. As John Tyler argues at Radio Netherlands Worldwide: "The real defendant now in the Geert Wilders trial is Dutch rule of law and the Amsterdam Appeals Court which called for his prosecution against the will of the Public Prosecutor's Office."
The issues at hand include Islam and freedom of speech, yes, but ultimately this trial is about the battle within Holland's court system. It is about the direction that this court system will take in the years to come: will it regulate speech and involve itself in matters of religion and politics? Will it continue to mire itself in situations where it can be accused of bias? Or will it go the other route, toward a more dignified, less intrusive judicial process?
Walker Morrow is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist