Dutch lawmaker tries to avoid hate speech charges

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AMSTERDAM (AP) — A Dutch court is hearing a petition by anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders to avoid criminal prosecution for allegedly inciting hatred against Muslims.

Wilders is one of the Netherlands’ most popular politicians, having built his Freedom Party movement on anti-immigrant themes.

Charges against him stem from his March 2008 film “Fitna,” which juxtaposed Quranic verses against images of terrorism by Islamic radicals. He has also called for a ban on the Quran and said Muslim headscarves “pollute” the Dutch landscape.

Wilders is expected to argue that his comments fell within the boundaries of freedom of speech and that elected officials must be allowed to speak their mind.

The Amsterdam court will rule on the petition within a week of Wednesday’s hearing.