By Patrick Goodenough, International Editor,

Photo: Dutch politician Geert Wilders following a court appearance in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Jan. 13, 2010. He is seeking to avoid criminal prosecution for allegedly inciting hatred against Muslims with his film, ‘Fitna. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

The Dutch lawmaker on trial for his provocative views on Islam said last week he was being denied the right to a fair trial after the court rejected most of his requested defense witnesses, including a convicted murderer who invoked the Koran to justify his actions.

The Amsterdam District Court ruled that Geert Wilders could only call three witnesses out of the 18 he wanted. Among those it turned down was Mohammed Bouyeri, imprisoned for life in 2005 for murdering a Dutch critic of Islam, filmmaker Theo van Gogh, on an Amsterdam street the previous year.

In a statement released after the brief hearing, Wilders said, “This court is not interested in the truth. This court doesn’t want me to have a fair trial. I can’t have any respect for this. This court would not be out of place in a dictatorship.”

Nonetheless, Wilders said he was still hopeful of an acquittal. The testimony phase will begin later this year.

Wilders and his supporters say the case is much more than the trial of one man accused of discrimination and inciting hatred. They say the right of Europeans to speak what they believe to be the truth about Islam is at stake.

“This is not merely a lawsuit against Geert Wilders [but] … a trial against all freedom-loving people. A trial against millions,” states a website set up by Wilders, dedicated to the trial.

The case against Wilders, who heads the Freedom Party in the Netherlands, relates in part to his short documentary film, Fitna, which features passages from the Koran along with footage of terror attacks and jihadists extolling violence while quoting from Islam’s revered text.

The complaint also refers to comments he has made about Islam in the Dutch media, in particular an open letter published in 2007 calling for the Koran to be outlawed in the Netherlands on the grounds that it contains verses instructing Muslims “to oppress, persecute or kill Christians, Jews, dissidents and non-believers, to beat and rape women, and to establish an Islamic state by force.”

As part of the effort to prove his contention that his views on the nature of Islam are accurate, Wilders had wanted the court to hear, in their own words, van Gogh’s unrepentant and Koran-quoting killer as well as two hard-line Iranian ayatollahs, a radical imam based in The Hague, and a controversial Sunni scholar.

Also on his witness list were scholars and researchers specializing in Islam, human rights and law, including a former Muslim who is an expert in sharia (Islamic law).

The public prosecutor opposed Wilders’s request, and the court last week agreed that he could call only three of the 18.

One of the three is Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-born critic of Islam who caused an uproar in a 2006 al-Jazeera interview when she spoke of a clash “between civilization and backwardness, chaos and rationality, a conflict between freedom and oppression, democracy and dictatorship, human rights on the one hand and the violation of these rights on the other, between those who treat women like animals, and those who treat them like human beings.”

The other two permitted witnesses are Dutch scholars Hans Jansen, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism; and Simon Admiraal, whose research focuses on radicalization in Arabic sermons.

The judges also ruled that the three witnesses’ testimony would have to be heard behind closed doors.

“Apparently the truth about Islam must remain a secret,” the Wilders trial website commented.

In their ruling, the judges said the accused would have ample opportunity to tell the court during the trial how he views its decision to disallow most of the witnesses he had requested.

‘A judgment on Islam’

Among those rejected by the court were:

— Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, the secretary of the powerful Council of Guardians and current Friday prayer leader in Tehran, who frequently rails against America.

— Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a former head of Iran’s judiciary, who said in February 2000 that the fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 calling for the death of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie was “divine” and “irrevocable” and would be carried out, “Allah-willing.”

— Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian Sunni scholar controversial for having called Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis justifiable “martyrdom operations.”

Radio Netherlands International reported that “some feared that had the judges allowed all seventeen [sic] defense witnesses, the trial would become a judgment on Islam, rather than a judgment on whether or not Geert Wilders has incited hatred.”

Robert Spencer, author on The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran and the editor of Jihad Watch – and another of those on Wilders’s list turned down by the court – said last week that Sultan, Jansen, and Admiraal would be “excellent” witnesses.

“Nonetheless, this decision indicates the court’s bias against Wilders, and so does not bode well for him,” he commented.

Spencer said the court was “railroading” Wilders.

“He had wanted to call Mohammed Bouyeri, the Qur’an-inspired murderer of Theo Van Gogh, who would have proven his point immediately, and others who would have buttressed the truth of what he has said,” he said. “That the court has hindered his ability to do this shows that the railroad tracks are being laid into place.”

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