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Wilders's anti-Islam film screened in Dutch court

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The hate trial of Dutch anti-Islamist politician Geert Wilders, who will have a powerful shadow role in the Dutch government, resumed on Wednesday with a showing of his controversial film that criticises the Koran.

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The screening in court of Wilders’s 2008 film “Fitna,” which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, threatened to interrupt the trial for a second time in a week when defence lawyer Bram Moszkowicz objected to comments from presiding judge Jan Moors.

When one complainant said she did not wish to see the film, which accuses the Koran of inciting violence, Moors said: “I can understand that” -- prompting a sharp response from Moszkowicz who said such a remark is simply not allowed.

Moors stressed he was not expressing any judgement over the film. Moszkowicz then reluctantly allowed the trial to proceed.

Wilders, who has constant police protection because of death threats, went on trial on Monday on charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims in media comments and for insulting Muslims by comparing the Islamic faith to Nazism.

He faces a fine or a maximum prison sentence of one year at a time when the formation of a new Dutch government relies on his support.

If convicted, he would keep his parliamentary seat. In theory, the court could impose a sentence preventing him from running for re-election, but such a drastic ruling is considered by legal experts to be highly unlikely.

Monday’s proceedings had to be halted when Wilders, after invoking his right to remain silent, accused judges of “scandalous” bias and demanded they be replaced. The court rejected the claims on Tuesday.

The prosecutor, reacting to complaints about Wilders, originally said he was protected by the right to free speech, but a court overruled him and ordered that Wilders be charged.

Wilders has said the freedom of speech of 1.5 million people who voted for him is also on trial.

On Tuesday, Christian Democrat MPs approved a coalition pact with the Liberals that relies on support from Wilders’s anti-Islam Freedom Party.

“In the case of a conviction and suppose Mr Wilders would have to do time in prison, the problem might be how to fulfil his obligations in Parliament,” said Geert-Jan Alexander Knoops, an international criminal law professor at Utrecht University.

“However, from an international law perspective, I believe it is not very likely that a conviction will be rendered.”

The trial will run for several days, with a ruling expected on November 4.

Reporting by Aaron Gray-Block; Editing by Catherine Bremer