Dutch anti-Islam MP overturns British ban

LONDON/AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Right-wing Dutch legislator Geert Wilders, who faces prosecution in his homeland for anti-Islam remarks, won an appeal on Tuesday against a ban from entering Britain.

Geert Wilders poses during a visit to promote his film in Jerusalem December 14, 2008. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Wilders was barred in February because British ministers said his presence would threaten community harmony and public safety.

He had planned to show his film “Fitna,” which argues that the Koran incites violence, in the British parliament but was turned back after landing at London’s Heathrow Airport.

Britain’s Asylum and Immigration Tribunal has now overturned that decision following a challenge by Wilders, meaning he could now be allowed into the country.

“It’s a fantastic decision,” Wilders told Reuters. “It’s not a victory for myself, but a victory for freedom of speech.”

Wilders said he had no specific travel plans but would return to Britain “as soon as it’s possible.”

London expressed disappointment at the court’s decision.

“The government opposes extremism in all its forms,” a Home Office spokesman said. “The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence. We still maintain this view.”

Wilders, whose film urged Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” verses from the Koran and who has compared Islam to Nazism, faces prosecution in an Amsterdam court for inciting hatred and discrimination.

His travel ban caused a diplomatic spat. Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen phoned his British counterpart to express his displeasure that a Dutch member of parliament had been barred from entering another EU country.

Reporting by Michael Holden in London and Reed Stevenson in Amsterdam; editing by Robin Pomeroy