Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders goes on trial

The Dutch anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders has gone on trial in Amsterdam accused of inciting hatred against Muslims.

Mr Wilders, in a bright blue tie and with his trademark shock of blond hair, waved to supporters as he entered the court complex in Amsterdam. There were also some protesters outside court. Riot police were on duty nearby.In an opening statement, he told the court that he was being persecuted for “stating my opinion in the context of public debate”, adding: “I can assure you, I will continue proclaiming it.”His lawyer, Bram Moszkowicz, then told the presiding judge that Mr Wilders would thereafter exercise his right to silence and not answer questions during the trial.When presiding judge Jan Moors said it appeared Mr Wilders was “avoiding discussion” Mr Moszkowicz accused him of bias and moved to have him substituted, causing the trial to be adjourned.“The freedom of expression of at least 1.5 million people is standing trial together with me,” he wrote.That seemed to be a reference to the number of voters who backed his Freedom Party in national elections in June.That election made his party the third biggest in parliament, and gave him a key role in coalition discussions.The coalition deal that emerged last week joins two centre-right parties in a minority government, which will seek the backing of parliament this week.But, holding only 52 of the 150 seats in parliament, they will depend on the support of Mr Wilders’ 24 Freedom Party MPs to pass legislation.In return for that support he has already extracted policy concessions. The new government has said it will try to ban the Islamic face-veil and curb immigration.

t is not clear whether a conviction for Mr Wilders would affect the government’s willingness to deal with him.Mr Wilders has infuriated opponents not just with his opinions, but with language they see as inflammatory, such as stating that Muslim “head rags” – ie the veil – ought to be taxed for “polluting” the Dutch landscape.Mr Wilders was briefly refused entry to Britain last year, after being invited to show his film in the House of Lords.Having received numerous death threats, he is usually surrounded by bodyguards.The judgement is expected on 4 November – BBC