July 1, 2008 / 5:28 PM / 11 years ago

Jordan charges Dutch politician with blasphemy

AMMAN (Reuters) - A Jordanian prosecutor on Tuesday charged Dutch politician Geert Wilders with blasphemy and contempt of Muslims for making an anti-Koran film and ordered him to stand trial in the kingdom, judicial sources said.

Dutch politician Geert Wilders speaks during an interview with Reuters Television inside the Dutch Parliament in The Hague March 3, 2005. REUTERS/Jerry Lampen

In Riyadh, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a league of 56 Muslim nations, said it was “deeply annoyed” after Dutch prosecutors said on Monday they would not take action against Wilders as he was protected by the right to free speech.

“The decision ... encourages and supports the irresponsible defamatory style followed by some media outlets and instigates feelings of hatred, animosity and antipathy towards Muslims,” the Saudi Arabia-based OIC, said in a statement.

The film produced by Wilders, “Fitna”, a Koranic term sometimes translated as “strife”, accused the Muslim holy book of inciting violence and prompted protests and condemnation in many Muslim countries.

Dutch prosecutors also received complaints about comments Wilders made in newspaper interviews including one in which he compared Islam’s holy book to Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The OIC said the prosecutors’ decision showed they ignored the “thin line separating freedom of speech and the instigation of hatred, animosity and discrimination.”

Judicial sources in Amman said Jordanian prosecutor Judge Abdallat had charged Wilders after a legal complaint by a coalition of Jordanian activists and community leaders.

An order was issued through the Dutch embassy in Amman to bring Wilders to stand trial. The charges carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison, lawyers said.

Wilders, whose right-wing, anti-immigration Freedom Party has nine of the 150 seats in the Dutch parliament, welcomed the Dutch prosecutors’ ruling and said he had been careful to limit his criticism to the religion of Islam and not Muslims.

But he said he was concerned about the Jordanian case against him which could limit his freedom to travel.

Dutch prosecutors said Wilders was not inciting hatred of Muslims as he did not call for acts of violence against them.

A Dutch anti-discrimination group, The Netherlands Shows its Colours, said it would appeal the prosecutors’ decision.

The film sparked calls for boycotts of Dutch products in some Muslim countries, but has not lead to the kind of violence that was directed against Denmark in 2006 after newspapers there published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman and Souhail Karam in Riyadh; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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