The bomb burst
Arthur Legger, for HRS og Sappho
The day in Court had barely started when it happened. Sitting two rows back from a stern Geert Wilders and his groomed lawyer Bram Moszkowicz I watched the shock of disbelief wave through the six rows of journalists and cameramen: what the hell did judge Jan Moors just say? Even the usually frozen Public Prosecutors Paul Velleman and Birgit van Roessel twitched. And the few complainants present, Els Lucas, Mohammed Rabbae, René Danen, Haroon Raza, looked up in disbelief and dismay. Did the judge, after returning from deliberation, actually say:
“I deplore the fact that you exercise your right of secrecy. I had hoped for some elucidation. Clearly, even the judges of this Court read papers and watch television. We know what is going on. And a great many times in the media the accusation goes: Wilders puts forward a lot of opinions, but when he’s asked to debate and defend them publicly, he ducks. It seems to me that you’re exactly doing so right now.”
At first Wilders and Moszkowicz didn’t react, but sucked it in. Politely they listened to the summing up of the indictment, starting where the process had halted last in February. But at 10:45 hours, when everybody had returned in the extremely secured Court room from yet another break (this time to prepare Fitna to be shown), the bomb burst.
«Do you really mean this?»
Before the pause the judge had read, mostly improvising it seemed, the first batch of evidence aloud: nine interviews which had appeared in 2007 and 2008 in newspapers, magazines, websites and on television. Every time after quoting Wilders on the dangers of Islam and the threatening acts of terror of Dutch muslims and Moroccans the judge asked with a mildly belittling tone: “Do you really mean all of this? Couldn’t you choose a lighter tone? Did you say this spontaneously or well-considered? Did you prepare these interviews with your advisors and did you agree on publication? Do you know of any country which has banned the Koran or were you merely putting up a show? You’re claiming that Islam is influencing our culture: who is ‘our’? Your stating that we have a gigantic problem with muslim culture, who are ‘we’? Can you substantiate those claims? Did you do any research? Why do you link Islam and Moroccan youngsters or non-Western immigrants? Do you actually mean all of this or is it just to get attention? I know you will not answer any of these questions, because you won’t speak, but I will ask them nevertheless and every time again and again. Of course, I’m not bullying you.” Wilders merely remarked unnerved: “I chose not to speak. That is my right. I’m not bullying you either.” To which Moszkowicz added: “We will answer all of these questions during our reply and rebuttal. Still, I would like to stress that Wilders’ silence does not imply he consents.”
“I will continue to speak about these facts”
Nobody in the room would have thought so, anyway. Because at the start of the day and to the dislike of the three judges, Jan Moors, M. Van der Nat and H. Lommen-Van Alphen who similarly as in February showed physical abhorrence towards the successful leader of the Party For Freedom, Wilders had expressed himself clearly for two minutes. “Being here is very estranging to me. Two things are happening at the same time: I’m crucial for the formation of a Cabinet and I’m standing trial for freedom of speech. A right which also has to apply for controversial opinions. So, I’m a suspect now. I’m advised to exercise my right of secrecy. I will do so during this lawsuit. But whatever happens, after I will continue to speak about these facts. Because they’re the truth. And my freedom of speech shall not be lessened. I won’t take back anything I have said. But, clearly, I haven’t said all the things which are presently attributed to me.”
Biased actions of the Court
Upon resuming at fifteen minutes to eleven Moszkowicz immediately took the initiative and called for challenging the Court: a replacement of judges for reasons of apparent partiality. “The remark of the Court’s chairman reveals how the members of the Court think about Mr. Wilders, and fits in a long list of biased actions and attitudes of this Court which started with the content of the dossier and the indictment itself. Does the dossier mention the fact that Mr. Wilders “ducks”? Is this a fact? The Court cannot suddenly mentions a new fact which isn’t one. Your remark suggests that Mr. Wilders unjustly exercises his right. You and your colleagues had 15 minutes to ponder about how to react on Mr. Wilders position. Did you and your colleagues did, or was the remark spontaneous? If not than apparently the Court sides with the political point of view of Wilders’ opponents: he kindles the fuse and runs away. While the opposite is true. Would he respond to the questions Mr. Wilders would be blamed for making the process political, but now he’s silent he is to be blamed too. The judge ought to refrain from commentary on Wilders’ right of secrecy. While that right is one of the very few rights a defendant has.” Judge Moors reacted curtly and slightly sour: “I did not want to cause offense. Indeed, my two co-judges share my statements. Besides, you ask for a challenge too late, you should have done so immediately. But I understand that you’re calling for a formal challenging of the Court. So, we’ll call for a hearing by the Challenging-Assembly.”
The break lasted until half past twelve during which the revolutionary events in the Netherlands since last February revealed themselves sociologically in the behavior of the journalists. Nobody was interested in the complainants. They wandered around aimlessly, as if suddenly having become archaic. The MPs of the PVV on the other hand were surrounded. And contrary to the months before PVV’s enormous victories in the local and general elections they were questioned seriously. Also, outside on the terrace the reporters debated PVV politics and Wilders’ opinions without irony; discussing the new ‘Cabinet Wilders’ and whether a conviction was something to applaud. Nobody called the quotes of Wilders abject, like was usage 8 months earlier. All of the journalists thought the remarks of judge Jan Moors not done and leftish biased. Revolutionary, the reporter of Dutch national NOS Television, whose director Hans Laroes a year ago openly ordered his journalists only to write negatively about Wilders and was cheered for it, was ridiculed for stating that hate speech had to be suppressed even if freedom of speech was to be censored. The manner these seasoned reporters of Dutch national television stations, leading newspapers and magazines reflected on the lawsuit showed how opinion had shifted –was gravitating towards Wilders as the center of power and to absolute freedom of speech as the desired principle.
Scandalous political process
Returning back inside the colossal concrete structures of the Amsterdam Court, going through the scan, and walking past the bomb squads and security agents into the monitored waiting room, the hot debating continued until Court resumed with four members of the challenging-assembly; all daily colleagues of judge Moors. Bram Moszkowicz repeated his complaints and demanded different judges, adding: “Next time I will jump up and start calling for a replacement. But seriously, some time must be given for deliberation on such a grave matter.” Public Prosecutor Paul Vellema merely remarked that “Mr. Moszkowicz wasn’t too late with his call in our perception. But legally and objectively there is no ground for a replacement; subjective interpretations are not part and parcel of the objective legal reality; we do not agree with the challenging of the Court.” Judge Jan Moors letter of explanation and defense emphasized the belatedness of Moszkowicz’ call and than took the same stance as the Public Prosecutor, to the obvious liking of the assembly’s chairman. Geert Wilders was handed the last word in the matter and of the day:
“I always thought that each defendant ought to have a fair trial. I always thought that one has the right to remain silent. Instead I feel like an MP in Parliament questioned by one of my political opponents, and not judged by an unbiased Court. If the judges are not replaced and I will be judged by them, than this trial has truly become a scandalous and outrageous political process.”
Tuesday, 6th of October
Not only the Monday-evening news programs suddenly showed a more serious way of presenting information on Wilders, his trial and the formation of a new Cabinet of Christen Democrats and Liberal to be condoned by Wilders’ PVV, but also the morning papers reported with a different, more balanced tone. The increasing weight of Wilders in The Hague and his cleverly holding the keys to the new seats of power also caused the betrayal of a former political heavy weight, anonymously, by some of his civil servants.
Ernst Hirsch Ballin, Minister of Justice on his way out, and Wilders’ most resourceful opponent was confronted by the front page of the morning paper De Telegraaf with presenting e-mail correspondence that directly linked him to Wilders’ Public Prosecutors and the Amsterdam Court. According to the Openbaar Ministerie (OM –the body of Public Prosecutors) nothing irregular had happened: “It’s quite common that we discuss these things with the Minister of Justice, expressly if matters have such impact on society, and the politician carries such weight.” They did neither comment, however, on the highly irregular tone of excitement and jubilation the e-mails showed which were written by leading civil servant Gerdine Dankers to N. Dorrenboom and Paul Velleman nor on the desire to nail Wilders which they revealed: “Thanks! This is super information!!! I’m not going to edit it, but will add it as a formal writing, additionally to the minutes” (e-mail of the 18th of March 2008, De Telegraaf, 5/10/2010).
The strong sense that something very fishy in regard to the Wilders trial had been going on since Spring 2008 and that the Amsterdam Court and its judges might be biased and perhaps even controlled by Hirsch Ballin, and that a replacement might prove handy, did not affect the bureaucratic dealing with Moszkowicz’ request the slightest. The Challenging-Assembly started at 14:05 hours and was finished ten minutes later after quickly summing up the six paragraphs leading up to the decision: “Clearly, Mr. Moszkowicz was in time with his demand. Yet, there are no objective and legal reasons to discern which suggest that Mr. Wilders will not have a fair trial. The remarks of the chairman were clumsy, but do not show bias. The request is denied.”
The trial of Geert Wilders continues the entire month of October, with the verdict to be expected on the 4th of November. Slightly surreal and perhaps arranged, at 3 pm the news arrived that the two final CDA MP’s opposing coalition with Wilders’ PVV had withdrawn their objections, hence a Cabinet of CDA and VVD condoned by PVV will be in power by the end of this week. The day could not have been more Janus-faced for Geert Wilders.