Friday, October 22, 2010

Judge Tom Schalken torpedoes trial against Geert Wilders

And in view of the harbour a ship goes under

Just before the hearings were to end the Geert Wilders Hate Speech trial run aground. Geert Wilders' Defense laywer Bram Moscowicz demanded again that the three judges presiding over the trial ought to be removed. The cause for the request by Wilders' Defense was an article by daily De Pers (Dutch) on a supper with one of the judges, Tom Schalken. Justice Schalken was one of the judges who had ordered the the public prosecutors (OM) to prosecute Geert Wilders for Hate Speech. This blog was the first English language blog to feature an article on witness Professor Hans Jansen's supper with Justice Tom Schalken and his friends. During the supper Justice Schalken tried to convince witness Hans Jansen that it was right to put Wilders on trial. This was three days before Hans Jansen had to witness in Court.

What happened? Who did what?

This dinner happened in early May. A few days ago, Hans Jansen wrote this piece for politically incorrect blog Hoeiboei (Dutch). Two days ago, on Wednesday this piece was published by the editor Annelies van der Veer, the owner of Hoeiboei. This Hoeiboei blog is a group blog that often features pieces on Islam by Professor Hans Jansen. The piece was also picked up by free newspaper De Pers which published some exerpts yesterday, just before midnight AND by Powned a right-liberal blog with a TV program yesterday at around 22:30.

Striking the iron while its hot

This morning Wilders' defense demanded from the three judges that they would be substituted, with the De Pers article to give his demand extra weight. The substitution chamber or Wrakingskamer was reconvened in the early afternoon and this time the request was granted. Thus the whole trial is a mistrial and has to be done over. Possibly the next time the fifteen witnesses which had been refused to speak on behalf of Geert Wilders' defense may now be allowed to add their testimony.

How could this happen?

It defies belief that the substitution chamber turned down the request for the judges to be substituted twice and finally granted it on account of a supper. Once when presiding judge Jan Moors attacked Geert Wilders for remaining silent, in words remniscent of Wilders' political opponents. Judge Moors made himself suspect of being biased again by saying that he understood that plaintiffs wanted to leave the Court room when "Fitna", a Islam critical documentary by Wilders was shown. The reason that a story about a supper where a Justice tried to convince a witness of the rightness of the trial against Wilders finally did make the substitution chamber to ask for new judges must be that they are starting to realize that the Court system are facing a mayor loss of trust form the Dutch public in this trial.

The emergence of critical media

This loss of trust is to a large extend the result of critical reporting on blogs such as GeenStijl, the associated Powned TV station, the emergence of smaller blogs such as Hoeiboei which give participants in the trial such as witness Hans Jansen a platform to speak from. Add to that the emergence of free newspapers such as De Pers which do not toe the party line of the Political and Judiciary elite. Finally the Justice Minister which puppeteered the prosecution of Geert Wilders for Hate Crimes and the rest was replaced by Ivo Opstelten. Mr. Opstelten has negotiated the new government including their tacit and essential support by Geert Wilders' Freedom Party (PVV). He is wont to be helpful to Geert Wilders.

A changed country

The Netherlands has changed considerably as far as media and politics are concerned and the Judiciary was caught napping. Perhaps they will make a come back against Geert Wilders in the new trial and catch Geert Wilders and his defense napping.

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