Dutch prosecutors have demanded a 12-year prison sentence if a former Pakistani cricketer is found guilty of incitement to murder anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders.
The suspect, identified by Mr Wilders as Khalid Latif, 37, is accused of offering a bounty of around €21,000 (£18,000) to anybody who killed the politician.
Neither Latif or any lawyer representing him were present in the high-security courtroom near Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as his trial started on Tuesday, as he is believed to be in Pakistan.
Prosecutors did not name the sportsman but said in a statement that a video posted online in 2018 showed a famous Pakistan cricketer offering money for killing Mr Wilders.
The threat came after Mr Wilders said he would organise a competition of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
This sparked outrage in the Muslim community, as many consider any depictions of Muhammad to be blasphemous.
The contest did not go ahead, but Mr Wilders has lived under round-the-clock protection for years because of repeated threats to his life.
‘You won’t stop me’
In a statement written by the Dutch public prosecution service, they said the video created by Latif “was extra toxic because it was issued during a period in which there was a lot of hatred and anger towards Geert Wilders”.
An international warrant has been issued for Latif’s arrest and Dutch prosecutors said they have been trying to contact him since 2018, first as a witness and then to answer the charges against him.
They said that killing Mr Wilders would “have been an attack on the rule of law itself” as well as having caused “unbearable pain to his loved ones”.
Speaking in court on Tuesday, Mr Wilders addressed Latif, saying: “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.”
He said that a conviction would send a “powerful signal to all other others who issue threats: we won’t accept it”.
In 2017, Latif, was banned for five years from all forms of cricket for his role in a match-fixing scandal in the Pakistan Super League.
He made his T20 International debut for Pakistan in 2008 and helped take the team to victory against England in the 2016 T20.