Prosecutors say they will ask for acquittal of Wilders on one of the two charges against him

Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports:

Prosecutors in the trial of anti-Islam Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders say he should be acquitted of group defamation.

The populist Dutch MP is standing trial for defamation of Muslims as a group because of his comparison of the Qur’an to Hitler’s Mein Kampf. He is also charged with inciting hatred and discrimination.

Public prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman now say his comments on the Qur’an referred to Islam and its holy book, and not to Muslim people.

In explaining their call for acquittal on the defamation charges, the prosecutors also explained that statements contained in the MP’s film, Fitna, referred to Islam as a religion and not to its followers. Even though the statements could hurt the feelings of Muslims, that was not the same as defamation of the group.

On Friday, the prosecutors will either press for Mr Wilders to be found guilty on the incitement charges or for him to be acquitted. If they call for a guilty verdict, they will also put forward what they consider an appropriate sentence.

This sounds so odd from an American point of view. In America, if the state drops a charge, the trial on that charge comes to an end, period. But we get the impression from this article that the prosecutors can only “call” for an acquittal, implying that the judges could still find Wilders guilty on that charge against the prosecutors’ recommendation. Also, it’s not clear from the story whether the prosecutors officially issued the “call” to the judges in court, or just to reporters. The confusion arises because in the old journalism that worked by the rules, when a public figure said something, the reporter would say where he said it and to whom he said it. But now reporters simply tell us that

Public prosecutors Birgit van Roessel and Paul Velleman now say his comments on the Qur’an referred to Islam and its holy book, and not to Muslim people.

That “say” takes place in a vacuum. Where did they say it? To whom? To reporters? To the judges in court? IN a paper submitted to the judges? In a press release? Such journalism constructs a universe without placemarkers and boundaries, making it impossible to determine the precise content and meaning of a fact.

Another oddity. Since the prosecutors are not simultaneously calling for his acquittal on the incitement to hatred charge, does that mean that they will call for his conviction on that charge? Or do the prosecutors simply drop these little messages about their intentions when the mood strikes them, and tomorrow or Thursday or Friday they might declare that they also think Wilders should be acquitted of the incitement charge?

But now here is Pamela Geller, who, linking the same story, writes,


The first hurdle has been won in the heresy trial of Geert Wilders. Islamic supremacists have failed in their relentless attack on free men. It is a good day for freedom lovers the world over.

On Friday, the court will decide if Wilders will be found guilty of incitement charges. Incitement by whom? It is the infidel, the kuffar and the moderates who are being slaughtered by Muslim fundamentalists, not the other way around.

First Geller issues a big headline saying that Wilders is NOT GUILTY! And she adds that the attempt against free men has failed. Anyone reading that would think that Wilders has been, uh, acquitted and that his trial is over. That’s what I thought when I read her headline and first sentence. But then Geller turns around and says that the court will decide if Wilders will be found guilty of the incitement charge. So then he hasn’t been found not guilty, has he? Confusion reigns.

As I said the other day, Geller does not make the effort to reconcile the contradictory thoughts that arise in her head or that are presented to her. She just lets it all pour out. And she is far from alone We live in a post-literate culture of emotion and self-esteem, a culture of vague and contradictory expressions, where ideas are approximated rather than stated precisely, where contradictions are not seen as a problem, or even seen at all, where exactitude is seen as stultifying, and the demand for exactitude threatening.

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Lydia McGrew writes:

According to this post at Jihad Watch, the prosecutors are pressing the incitement charges. And they are alleging that truth is not a defense against those charges. (You will remember that we discussed that question once—whether in Holland the truth of one’s statements is a defense against the types of charges brought against Wilders.) Evidently their reasoning that truth is not a defense goes like this: The things Wilder has said are the kinds of things that can’t be known definitely to be true and hence remain only personal opinions. Since they are merely personal opinions, expressing them is not protected speech, even if Wilders believes them to be true.

Pretty convoluted, huh? “Nobody can really know the truth on this subject, so we can control what you say about it.” In American laws like libel, it is (I understand) exactly the opposite: If some matter is considered merely a matter of opinion (e.g., “Michelle Obama wears ugly clothes”), someone cannot be sued for libel for saying it, because you have to argue among other things that the statement is _false_ to bring the suit. In postmodern Europe, the claim that something is merely a matter of opinion is used as an argument for bringing charges against people who express the politically prohibited opinion.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 12, 2010 07:31 PM | Send

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