A former Pakistani international cricketer was put on trial in the Netherlands on Tuesday for allegedly instigating the murder of Islamophobic MP Geert Wilders. The public prosecutor's office demanded a prison sentence of twelve years if convicted. Dutch prosecutors said 37-year-old Khalid Latif, who remains in Pakistan, bid €21,000 ($23,000) in an online video from 2018 in which he called for Wilders' assassination.
At the time, the outspoken Dutch MP canceled a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed after angry demonstrations broke out, especially in Pakistan, and the far-right politician was showered with death threats.
“Latif tried to persuade others to murder Mr Wilders and avenge the cartoon competition,” prosecutor FA Kuipers told the judges.
“It was not only his aim to use violence to end a human life, but he also tried to silence a Dutch representative with his appeal,” she said at a court hearing held in a high-security court near Schiphol Airport.
“Claiming for a murder to prevent the cartoon contest and offering a sum of money to kill the organizer of that contest should be punished very severely by prosecutors,” Kuipers added, before asking for a 12-year sentence.
Neither Latif nor a lawyer were present in the courtroom. The Pakistani embassy in The Hague made no comment immediately after the hearing and Latif was not immediately available for comment.
Kuipers said prosecutors had been trying to speak to the cricketer since 2018 and forwarded a request for legal assistance to Islamabad, but to no avail.
The Netherlands has no legal assistance agreement with Pakistan, she said. “The questions we have for Latif remain unanswered,” said Kuipers.
“Will not be silenced”
Wilders, who was in court during the hearing, told judges that death threats against his life had increased after he planned to host the controversial cartoon competition. Known for his astute comments on Islam, Wilders has been under 24-hour state security since 2004.
“Whatever you find about the cartoon contest, there's no reason to put the death price on anyone,” Wilders said.
Addressing Latif personally, Wilders said, “Your call to have me assassinated will never silence me.”
But at the time, the plan to host the competition drew widespread criticism at home, with politicians, local media and ordinary citizens slamming the idea as unnecessarily hostile to Muslims.
Latif's call resonated in the real world, Kuipers said. In 2019, a Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani man to ten years in prison for plotting to assassinate Wilders after the canceled competition.
The man, identified as Junaid I, was arrested at a train station in The Hague in 2018 after posting a film on Facebook saying he wanted to “send Wilders to hell” and urging others to help. The verdict is to be announced on September 11th.
Latif, 37, who has five one-day caps and 13 T20Is for Pakistan, was banned from cricket for five years in 2017 for spot-rigging at a Pakistan Super League match in Dubai. Latif, who had found early success as a cricketer but failed to break through at international level, made his last appearance in Pakistan against the West Indies in Abu Dhabi in September 2016.
He ended his ban last year and has since led a low-key life in Karachi, where he trains at club level.
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