Last updated at 11:25 AM on 23rd June 2011
Right-wing politician Geert Wilders was today cleared by a Dutch court of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.
The court in Amsterdam ruled that Mr Wilders' anti-Islam statements, while offensive to many Muslims, fell within the bounds of legitimate political debate.
Presiding judge Marcel van Oosten said the politician's claims that Islam was violent by nature and his calls to halt Muslim immigration and ban the Koran must be seen in a wider context over immigration policy.
Not guilty: Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders was today acquitted of charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims
'Free speech': Mr Wilders had claimed the charges against him were politically-motivated and said an 'enormous burden' had been removed from his shoulders with the ruling
He also ruled that Mr Wilders' public statement could not be directly linked to increased discrimination against Dutch Muslims.
Mr Wilders did not react as the verdict was read out, but supporters in the public gallery hugged one another and clapped after his acquittal.
One of the most powerful and popular politicians in the Netherlands, Mr Wilders was accused of inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims through numerous public statements and with insulting them by comparing Islam with Nazism.
He said outside court: 'I'm incredibly happy with this acquittal on all counts.
'It's not only an acquittal for me, but a victory for freedom of expression in the Netherlands.
'Fortunately, you're allowed to discuss Islam in public debate and you're not muzzled in public debate. An enormous burden has fallen from my shoulders.'
High profile: Mr Wilders, one of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands, was given a police escort to the hearing in Amsterdam
The court found that Mr Wilders' rhetoric was 'on the edge of what is legally permissible', but not illegal.
The judge described statements about a 'tsunami' of immigrants as 'crude and denigrating', but legally legitimate given the wider context and his acknowledgement that those who integrate are acceptable and do not call for violence.
In speeches, written articles and a short film that incited riots around the Muslim world, Mr Wilders said Islam is an inherently violent religion, and he compared the Koran to Hitler's Mein Kampf - an especially sensitive image because of the large number of Dutch Jews handed over to the Nazis in World War Two.
Mr Wilders argued that his statements represented the views of millions of Dutch voters, that they were protected by freedom of speech law and that the court was biased against him.
He also claimed the charges were politically-motivated.