Geert Wilders is back in court and back in the Dutch headlines today. Meanwhile the revolutionary tide is turning in Egypt, Iranian-Dutch relations hit a new low, Dutch tennis veterans get a drubbing and there are wise lessons to be learned from football-card mania.
Geert Wilders: the trial resumes
The biggest story in today’s papers is the trial of Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, which resumed yesterday with a new panel of judges after Mr Wilder’s lawyer sent the previous lot packing amid accusations of bias. The anti-Islam politician stands accused of offending Muslims as a group and inciting hatred and discrimination.
Trouw notes that there’s much at stake for the judiciary this time around and reports that the new judges “are taking a firm hold on the proceedings”. The paper reckons it’s all in the details, from the reprimands dealt out to Mr Wilders’ star lawyer Bram Moszkowicz to the fact that the live broadcast of the trial only starts when the judges enter the chamber and ends when they leave. The message: “this show only gets started once we’re here ... we’re in the director’s chair”. The paper says the judges are keen to focus on the content of the case this time around, but ironically its front-page article spends most of its time talking about style and presentation.
NRC.next states that “the case itself is not all that complex” but that “it’s beginning to seem like an octopus stretching its tentacles out in all directions”. De Volkskrant columnist Bert Wagendorp agrees, commenting that this is a case “that should be able to be decided in a week or two in a civilised country with a long legal tradition ... but we are in danger of once again being sucked into a none too respectable legal swamp”.
At the end of the day, when asked if he had anything to say, Mr Wilders took the opportunity to launch into a “lofty speech on the dangers of Islam ... without shying away from references to World War II”. De Volkskrant was clearly paying attention, observing “he said ‘The lights are going out all over Europe’ no less than four times”. Columnist Bert Wagendorp hits back, arguing “If the light goes out here it won’t be the fault of Islam, but of characters like Wilders messing about with the light switch ... Geert deals in hysterical scaremongering but we don’t need a trial to establish that.”
The revolutionary tide turns in Egypt
NRC Handelsblad reports that the tide of popular opinion now seems to be turning against the anti-Mubarak protestors on Tahrir Square, in what it describes as “a heartbreaking development for the demonstrators who where there from the start”. Those emotions are expressed by 22-year-old Mona Sayd who says “We were so happy. We were writing history. And suddenly we’re the bad guys ... It feels like I was pregnant and now I’ve had a miscarriage. Today it’s as if I can feel the blood flowing out of my body. And as if that wasn’t enough, now there are people turning round and telling me that my pregnancy was illegitimate in the first place.”
In sister paper nrc.next, Rob Wijnberg sums up the mood of pessimism in a column entitled “Revolution” but with a line drawn through it. The paper’s front page speaks of “Phase 2 of the Egyptian revolution” and warns that “only now will things start to get really complicated”. It comments that “the opposition has become divided, which is exactly what Mubarak wants”. From an international perspective, perhaps the most telling sign that revolutionary momentum is fading is the fact that Egypt is only front-page news in a single Dutch newspaper this morning.
Diplomatic low point follows Iranian execution
The diplomatic fallout after Iran’s execution of Dutch passport holder Zahra Bahrami continues to concern the papers. De Telegraaf reports that Dutch MPs “think Iran has once again treated the Netherlands with contempt by not returning the body of Zahra Bahrami to her family but hastily burying her far outside of Tehran instead”. Christian Union MP Joël Voordewind described the failure to get Ms Bahrami’s body released as “a sign that our diplomacy has collapsed”.
De Volkskrant leads with the news that Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has recalled the Dutch ambassador from Iran, under the headline “Relations with Iran at an all-time low”. The paper reports that Mr Rosenthal summoned the Iranian ambassador in the Netherlands twice but that the ambassador didn’t bother turning up the second time. Meanwhile the Dutch ambassador in Teheran arrived for an appointment with the foreign ministry to find the door closed in his face.
No dream comeback for Eltingh and Haarhuis
References to Muppets and ageing clowns aren’t exactly the kind of thing you want to hear as two dedicated sportsmen making a much anticipated comeback. But those are the terms de Volkskrant uses to report the fate of legendary Dutch tennis double-act Jacco Eltingh and Paul Haarhuis. They returned to the sport at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament only to go crashing out in two sets against top seeds Frystenberg and Matkowski who “blew them off the court”. Eltingh sighs “I could hear my racket cracking when those guys went all out”.
At least the two veterans haven’t lost their sense of humour. AD quotes them as saying “this press conference is going to be longer than the match”. It’s not all bad news though, as the reunion was intended to raise money for charity and they managed to generate over €4,300 for a good cause, the Richard Krajicek Foundation. One thing the two don’t seem to agree on is whether this is really the end of the road for their partnership. Haarhuis insists “as far as I’m concerned, there will be no sequel”. But Eltingh confesses “You know what the worst thing of all about this match is? It’s given me an appetite for the game again ...”
Football card mania provides lessons in life
It’s the blight of many a Dutch shopper these days: leaving the supermarket only to be besieged by packs of young boys beseeching you to hand over the collectible football cards you get free with every so many euros’ worth of groceries you buy. The promotional campaign is a tried and tested tactic to reel in extra custom and the cards are so popular with kids that they’ll happily stand outside the supermarket entrance for hours in the cold to lay their hands on as many as possible.
AD describes the fanatical young collectors descending on shoppers like “pigeons competing for a single crumb of bread”. But the paper also talks to education expert Bas Levering who looks on the bright side of this trend. He reckons there are “important lessons about life” to be learned from the experience as “it helps Dutch kids realise what scarcity is all about ... and it’s a wise lesson in not giving up”. Overcoming shyness, learning to negotiate, coping with disappointment: they’re all processes that football-card mania can help with, according to our friendly neighbourhood pedagogue. Something to remember the next time you’re contemplating fending the little blighters off with a stick...