A Dutch court ordered a retrial yesterday for the anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, sending the closely-watched hate speech case back to square one before a whole new panel of judges.
The far-right politician faces charges of inciting hatred against Muslims for remarks which include equating Islam with fascism and violence and others calling for a ban on the Koran and a tax on Muslim headscarves.
Mr Wilders accused judges at the Amsterdam District Court of bias and called for their dismissal after they refused to recall a defence witness who wrote on a blog that a member of an appeals panel directly involved in the case had improperly contacted him.
A hastily convened substitute panel ruled yesterday that Mr Wilders' objections were valid, which means the trial that began in January must start again from the beginning with new judges.
Mr Wilders welcomed the decision. "This gives me a new chance on a new fair trial," he said.
Judge G Marcus said the panel understood Mr Wilders' "fear that the court's decision displays a degree of bias ... and under those circumstances accepts the appeal".
Since the charges were filed, Mr Wilders' party has become part of the Netherlands' ruling conservative government, making him one of the most powerful politicians in the nation.