Pakistani ex-cricketer sentenced to 12 years for threatening Dutch far-right leader

Geert Wilders demands arrest and extradition of ‘now convicted criminal’ as Netherlands doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Pakistan

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 11 September 2023 16:20 BST
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Geert Wilders says he is 'happy' after Pakistani cricketer sentenced to 12 years in prison

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A former Pakistani cricketer was sentenced to 12 years in prison for offering money to assassinate the Netherlands’ most prominent far-right politician.

Khalid Latif, 37, was found guilty of incitement to murder in a 2018 case pertaining to lawmaker Geert Wilders.

Latif had posted a video on social media and offered a reward of three million Pakistani rupees (€21,000; £18,000) for the murder of the Party for the Freedom chief in the Netherlands.

Latif was reportedly angered by a cartoon contest devised by the Dutch leader in 2018 in which he urged people to send in cartoons and caricatures of Prophet Mohammad.

This led to anger and resentment among Muslims as any depictions of the Prophet are considered blasphemous.

Latif, at the time, posted that he would reward the person who would kill “the person who planned this game” and added that “if I had more, I would give it”.

Mr Wilders was forced to eventually cancel the contest due to “death threats and concerns other people could be put at risk”.

Pakistan’s then-prime minister Imran Khan had also issued a statement at the time saying the contest was hurting the sentiments of Muslims all across the world.

In several other Muslim countries, protesters burned Dutch flags and photos of Mr Wilders.

According to local media, Mr Wilders is known for his anti-Islam rhetoric and lives under round-the-clock protection because of the death threats he regularly receives due to this.

“Prime minister Mark Rutte and justice minister Dilan Yesilgoz must put strong pressure on the Pakistani authorities to cooperate in the arrest and extradition of this now convicted criminal,” Mr Wilders wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Otherwise, he will still avoid punishment,” he added.

The Netherlands doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Pakistan.

The court ruled that Latif’s statement should be regarded as incitement to murder, sedition and threat.

Latif, 37, has played a handful of international cricket matches for Pakistan but he was banned from cricket in 2017 due to his involvement in a corruption scandal.

It is the first time a Dutch court has convicted someone abroad for threatening a Dutch politician.

Latif “first and foremost infringed on Wilders’ personal life” with his actions, the court ruled. “In a period when hatred and threats against Wilders because of the announced cartoon contest already found very fertile ground, the suspect added even more fuel to the fire and even urged people to kill Wilders.”

Mr Wilders, during the trial earlier, had said: “As long as I’m living and breathing, you [Latif] won’t stop me. Your call to kill me and pay money for it is abject and will not silence me.”

The Dutch public prosecution service said the video created by Latif “was extra toxic because it was issued during a period in which there was a lot of hatred and anger towards Geert Wilders”.

An international arrest warrant has been issued for Latif, with Dutch prosecutors saying that their attempts to contact him since 2018 have failed.

Earlier, they had appealed that a conviction would send a “powerful signal to all others who issue threats: we won’t accept it”.

“With this sentence, the court also aims to set an example. It must be clear not only to this suspect but also to others that such offences can lead to very high sentences,” the court said.

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