Court rules UK was wrong to bar Geert Wilders

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The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in London has ruled that Dutch rightwing politician Geert Wilders should not have been refused entry to the United Kingdom in February.

A British organisation that promotes freedom of expression, the Birkenhead Society, had brought the case on his behalf.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide's political editor John Tyler asked Geert Wilders for his response to the court's decision.
Listen to the interview with Geert Wilders

Mr Wilders said he was “very happy” about the ruling. He said the British government decision to bar him had been politically motivated and described today’s ruling as “not a victory for me, only a victory for freedom of speech”. He said he would be consulting with his UK lawyers, and planned to travel to Britain at the earliest possible opportunity. He denied being an extremist.

Newsline's Davion Ford spoke to Mohamed el Aissati, a spokesman for Dutch Moroccan internet forum Maroc.nl, about his reaction to the ruling:
Listen to the interview with Mohamed el Aissati

Mr el Aissati accused Mr Wilders of hypocrisy for demanding free speech for himself while calling for censorship of the Qur’an.

Public security
Mr Wilders was invited to show his anti-Islam film Fitna at the House of Lords, the UK upper house of parliament. The invitation had come from UK Independence party peer, Lord Pearson. The British Home Office refused Mr Wilders entry to the country, giving the reason that his visit would “threaten community security and therefore public security”.

Fitna condemns the Qur’an as a “fascist book” and warns against Islamic violence and the “Islamisation” of Europe. Prior to his planned trip to the UK, and Amsterdam court ruled that he should be prosecuted for racial hatred – a case which is still pending.

The UK Home Office said it would "stop those who want to spread extremism, hatred and violent messages in our communities from coming to our country". It blocked Mr Wilders visit on the basis of legislation primarily designed to keep out religious extremists, so-called “preachers of hate”.

Mr Wilders decided to defy the ban and flew to the UK anyway. He was detained when he arrived in London and put back on a plane to the Netherlands.

The screening at the House of Lords went ahead without Mr Wilders, attended by reporters and only a handful of peers. 

Disappointed
In response to today's ruling, a British Home Office spokesman said, "We are disappointed by the court's decision today. The Government opposes extremism in all its forms. The decision to refuse Wilders admission was taken on the basis that his presence could have inflamed tensions between our communities and have led to inter-faith violence. We still maintain this view."

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has welcomed the court decision. He said he hopes that Mr Wilders will now be admitted to the UK. When Mr Wilders was refused entry, the Dutch government expressed disappointment, and Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende spoke to his British counterpart Gordon Brown about the refusal.

Mr Verhagen advised Mr Wilders to appeal against the UK Home Office decision. However, Mr Wilders strongly criticised the Dutch government for failing to raise the matter at European Union level.