Mr. Chairman, Members of the Court, Madam Prosecutor.
Thank you very much for allowing me to speak here today. It's an important day for me.
Because unfortunately a large part of my life consists of death threats that I have received almost daily for many years and that have forced me to live without freedom.
I have been on the death lists of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS for a very long time and the Hofstad group in the Netherlands, which is now fortunately no longer in existence, was also targeting me.
In recent years, several fatwas have been issued against me by imams and mullahs, two of which have been repeated quite recently. Fatwas, religious death sentences consisting of concrete calls to Muslims worldwide and also in the Netherlands to kill me.
Partly because of this, I now receive so many death threats, every day and about a thousand a year, that I no longer even report everything, because then I would no longer be able to do my work as a Member of Parliament.
Just last night, wh
le I was writing this short speech for this session, one came in: a video clip of a man with a machine gun shooting at my head, with the text that they will never forget me and can't wait for the day when they can celebrate shooting me in my head, in the name of Allah and his prophet.
They are often descriptions of how they want to kill me, often with explicit pictures, beheading videos, there are audio recordings of threats, including imams from mosques, and other disgustingly violent material. Many of those threats come from various Islamic countries, but especially from Pakistan.
And with a few exceptions of Pakistanis who came to the Netherlands to kill me, but luckily were arrested and also convicted, 99.99% of all people who threaten me from abroad have never been prosecuted.
Luckily one is prosecuted today. And I would like to thank the Public Prosecution Office for that.
I do hope that they will also prosecute the Pakistani mullah Jalali and the political leader Rizvi, who issued the aforementioned fatwas against me. Please don't forget them.
But anyway, today is an important day for me.
Because today your court is hearing the case against Khalid Latif, a well-known former cricketer from Pakistan, who in 2018 put a bounty of three million Pakistani rupees, then about 21 thousand euros, on my head as a reward for the one who murders me, and would post the video of that murder online as evidence. And if he had more money, he added, he would also give it to the one who kills me.
Khalid Latif thinks I should be killed because I (and I quote) would insult “the prophet of God” – he is referring to Muhammad – by organizing a cartoon contest.
But of course that is absolutely no reason to put a price on someone's head, let alone kill someone.
I organized that cartoon contest – which ultimately did not take place – by the way, because I gave a speech a few years earlier, in 2015, and was able to present the prize to the winner of another cartoon contest in the city of Garland, Texas in the United States. A terrorist attack took place during that meeting, the first attack claimed by the terrorist group ISIS in the US.
Both terrorists were shot dead on the spot by the American police, but rarely did the violence come so close to me.
That was the reason I wanted to make it clear that making drawings is allowed by anyone and we should never, ever bow down to people who choose violence, threats, murder and terror.
Chairman, Members of the Court, I do not need pity, but I do want you to understand what all these threats, including the one of Khalid Latif, who has placed a bounty on my head, mean to me and my family. What are the consequences.
Because of all the fatwas, threats and calls to kill, I have been living in high security for almost nineteen years. The day I lost my personal freedom is also forever etched in my memory.
It was November 2004 when the police/dkdb took me out of my home in Venlo with bulletproof vests and automatic weapons in response to a threat from Islamic circles. Within fifteen minutes I had to pack my things to leave my house in Venlo.
I've never been home since then.
I have lived in a prison with my wife for months for my safety, lived in a barracks, lived in a police station, had to dress unrecognizably in public with mustaches and wigs. And to this day, my wife and I live in a government safe house. Every day they drive me to the House of Representatives in armored and blinded cars and when the sirens go on I often use my airpods.
I can't do the most basic things that every human being does every day without thinking about it.
Quickly get some air. Empty the mailbox. Driving. Walk around the block. Quickly run a message in the store. Spontaneously go somewhere. Go somewhere alone.
It's not in it for me. Everything has to be planned well in advance and all services have my agenda, business and private. And frankly, you never get used to it. You learn to deal with it but you never get used to it. And that's tough. You should know that.
I am grateful to be protected. I also want to say that today. Thankful to the NCTV, to the responsible Minister of Justice, but especially to the heroes of the Royal and Diplomatic Security Service for protecting me in the most professional way, at the risk of their own lives. And also many other endangered persons from many different professional groups.
Also a word of thanks to the great team of the police for threatened politicians, who are on hand day and night and sometimes go crazy because of the amount of threats I send them, but always remain friendly and helpful.
As best I can, I try not to be guided by the fear of being killed and the knowledge that it can happen any day, protected or not.
I will always fight against the intolerance and hatred of people who propagate violence such as the radical Muslims who threaten me. I see it as my duty to warn and protect the Netherlands against them and their ideology.
And I fervently hope that your court sends a signal that I am not an outlaw. That putting a price on someone's head does not go unpunished.
I hope you will convict Mr. Latif for what he has done. He broke the law and not just a little bit. And that you also send a strong signal to those who threaten me, but also threaten others: you will not get away with it. Free speech will not be silenced by your terror.
Perhaps, should your Court convict him, Mr. Latif will never go behind bars because he is hiding in Pakistan and the Pakistani authorities are refusing to cooperate with the execution of your possible sentence, as they have not cooperated for many years now to requests from the Public Prosecution Office.
But even then, with a conviction you send a strong signal to all other threateners: we will not accept it. Inciting and provoking murder is noticed and condemned and is therefore not without consequences.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Court, I would like to say a few more words to Mr. Latif, if you will, even if he is not here today. Who knows, maybe he will hear or read what I say later.
Mr. Latif, as long as I'm alive and breathing you won't stop me. Your call to kill me and pay money for it is despicable and will not silence me, on the contrary. I will continue to speak the truth and express my opinion, including when it comes to Islam and your prophet.
The freedom of thought and speech, it is the only freedom I have left, and you will never take it away from me. I will always carry on. Always.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Court, for allowing me to speak here today.
Dutch Public Prosecution Service demands a 12 year prison sentence for issuing reward for the murder of Wilders
Three million rupees. This reward was issued by a famous Pakistani cricket player in 2018 for the person who murders Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders. Today this suspect was summoned to stand trial in the Netherlands for these facts. However, the courtroom seat remained empty. The prosecutor demanded a prison sentence of 12 years for these facts before the court today.
In May of 2018 the Dutch member of parliament and PVV party chairman announced a cartoon contest. People were asked to send caricature drawings of the Prophet Mohammed. The contest lead to many threats and online hatred from abroad, mostly from Pakistan. These threats continue to this day.
One of the threats was traced back to a famous Pakistani cricket player. He posted a video online in which he called upon people to kill "the person who planned this game", and issued a reward of 3 million rupees. At the time this sum was the equivalent of 21.000 euros. In the video he states that the reward would have been higher if he’d had more money.
With his call, the now 37 year old Pakistani, is guilty of attempted inducement of others to commit a criminal offence, sedition and threat to commit violence. Whether the suspect has personally placed the video message online or if others did so is unknown. The prosecutor however states that the circumstances make it clear that it was his intent to have the video be known to the world. The video shows the suspect sitting in front of recording equipment and speaking slowly while looking straight into the camera. There is no evidence to show that the suspect had any intention at any point for the video not to become public. Nor is there any evidence to show that the suspect has tried to retract the video after it became public.
The video message was extra toxic because it was issued during a period in which there was a lot of hatred and anger towards Geert Wilders. The prosecutor brought into memory that during this period there were people willing to act against the politician. In August of that same year a Pakistani national was arrested in The Hague. He had travelled to the Netherlands and had planned to kill Geert Wilders. There is no direct between this case and the video message but the message was widely shared during this time.
This shows that the video message was not just about a fictions scenario but that it potentially reached many people who could feel inspired to act on it. The goal of the video message was to remove a Dutch politician from the public debate so that his message could not be heard anymore. With that, the life of Geert Wilders would have been taken which would have caused insufferable pain to his loved ones. It would also have been an attack on the rule of law itself. The suspect issued a sizeable reward for this attack on both a member of parliament and the rule of the law in the Netherlands.
The suspect did not appear in court on Tuesday. The Public Prosecution Service has been trying to contact him since 2018; first for the purpose of hearing him as a suspect and later in order to summon him before a court of law. This was done through the process of requests for mutual assistance, since the suspect resides outside the Netherlands, in Pakistan. The Dutch authorities have to this day not received any reply on any of the requests for mutual assistance.
The Public Prosecution Service is however confident that the suspect is well aware of the case being handled in court this Tuesday. A summons was sent to Pakistan and the Public Prosecution Service has issued press releases about the case in both Dutch and English. There has been extensive media coverage on the case which show that the suspect was even asked about the case by journalists. The fact that he did not show up in court this Tuesday is of his own choosing.
The Public Prosecution Service is of the opinion that under these circumstances the suspect can be tried and convicted in absentia. There is an international arrest warrant issued which means he can be arrested at any time in order to undergo his sentence once this has been issued by the court. The court is expected to give its ruling in two weeks.