AMSTERDAM — Geert Wilders, the fiery right-wing Dutch politician, was acquitted Thursday of hate speech charges by an Amsterdam court, which found that his inflammatory comments about Muslims were protected by rules governing discourse in a free society.
Wilders, 47, had faced a possible one-year prison sentence on five charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims. He has become an important force in Dutch politics, making provocative statements, including comparing the Koran to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and calling for an end to Muslim immigration.
Wilders also made a short film, Fitna, in 2008 that portrayed Islam as inherently violent, and he joined Newt Gingrich in New York last year to oppose building an Islamic community center and mosque blocks from the World Trade Center site.
The verdict was expected, as prosecutors themselves had called for his acquittal.
Presiding Judge Marcel van Oosten said some of Wilders' comments — such as saying that foreign influences are "breeding" in the Netherlands and threatening to overrun Dutch culture — may be "crude and denigrating." But, he said, they did not amount to inciting hatred.
This report contains information from the New York Times and the Associated Press.