On Tuesday, Dutch prosecutors called for a 12-year prison sentence for a former cricketer from Pakistan who is accused of paying about €21,000 to have Geert Wilders, Netherlands’ politician and a vocal critic of Islamism, assassinated.
Prosecutors contended Khalid Latif offered the money to anyone who would assassinate Geert Wilders after the fiery Party for Freedom leader created a cartoon contest in 2018 that invited participants to submit caricatures of Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims were outraged and the politician has got several death threats over it. Latif stated in a video posted on social media that he would pay 3 million Pakistani rupees to anyone who would kill “the person who planned this game,” and that “If I had more, I would give it.” The competition was ultimately cancelled by Wilders.
Latif’s identity was withheld by the prosecution, but they claimed in a statement that a video published online in 2018 showed a well-known Pakistan cricketer promising to pay for the murder of Wilders. Due to repeated threats to his life provoked by his vehement criticism of Islam, the politician has lived under 24-hour protection for years.
“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 Public Prosecution Service in The Hague said in its written statement.
Wilders also said that he was not living a normal life due to the constant threats to his life that he gets provoked by his vehement criticism of Islam. “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,” Wilders noted adding that he was grateful for the protection he was being provided though.
SPEECH IN COURT TODAY DURING TRIAL AGAINST PAKISTANI KHALID LATIF, WHO WANTED ME TO BE SLAUGHTEREDhttps://t.co/OuCFrJPUDO
— Geert Wilders (@geertwilderspvv) August 29, 2023
The prosecution office stated that killing Wilders would have “caused his loved ones unbearable pain.” Additionally, it would have been a direct assault on the rule of law.
During the trial, Wilders also asserted that a conviction would send a “powerful signal to all others who issue threats: we won’t accept it.” In the further comments directed to absent Latif, Wilders added, “As long as I’m living and breathing, you won’t stop me. Your call to kill me and pay money for it is abject and will not silence me.”
In the court, the leader also revealed the reason for organizing the said cartoon contest which did not happen. “I organized that cartoon contest 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,” he said.
Wilders added that he continues to receive death threats and has been on the death lists of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and ISIS for a very long time. Notably, an international warrant has been issued for Latif’s arrest.
The prosecutor also stated that they have been attempting to contact Latif since 2018 and have asked Islamabad for legal support but have not received a response.
It was reported on April 18 that the Dutch prosecutors had asked Pakistan to serve the summons on the suspect, but they warned that this would be “very complicated” due to the lack of a legal treaty between the two nations.
Meanwhile, Latif had claimed that he was not aware of the allegations. “I have no knowledge of this. I will only comment once I get any communication on this,” he was quoted as saying.
It may be recalled that Khalid Latif was banned from cricket for five years in 2017 for spot-fixing in a Pakistan Super League match in Dubai. The Pakistan Cricket Board had charged Khalid Latif with six major breaches under the PCB’s anti-corruption code and banned him from all forms of cricket. Khalid Latif was also fined a million Pakistani Rupees. Later, in 2022, Khalid Latif happened to accept his role in spot-fixing and apologised to PCB in writing.
The court is expected to rule in two weeks.