A former Pakistani international cricketer went on trial Tuesday in the Netherlands for allegedly attempting to incite the murder of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders, with prosecutors demanding a 12-year sentence if convicted.
Dutch public prosecutors said Khalid Latif, 37, who remains in Pakistan, had offered 21,000 euros ($23,000) in an online video from 2018 in which he called for Wilders' killing.
The outspoken Dutch MP at the time cancelled a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed after angry demonstrations broke out, particularly in Pakistan, and the far-right politician was inundated with death threats.
"Latif tried to move others to murder Mr Wilders and to avenge the cartoon contest," prosecutor F. A. Kuipers told the judges.
"Not only was his goal to end a human life with violence, but with his appeal he tried to silence a Dutch representative," she said at a court hearing, held at a high security courthouse near Schiphol airport.
"Calling for a murder to prevent the cartoon competition and offering a sum of money to kill the organiser of that competition, should be very severely punished as far as the Public Prosecution is concerned," Kuipers added, before asking for a 12-year sentence.
Neither Latif, nor any lawyer were present in the courtroom.
The Pakistani embassy in The Hague had no comment directly after the hearing and Latif could not be immediately reached for comment.
Kuipers said prosecutors have tried since 2018 to speak to the cricketer and handed over a request to Islamabad for legal assistance, to no avail.
The Netherlands does not have a treaty regarding legal assistance with Pakistan, she said.
"The questions we have for Latif remain unanswered," Kuipers said.
- 'Won't be silenced' -
Wilders, who was in court during the hearing, told the judges death threats on his life increased after his plans to stage the controversial cartoon competition.
Known for his firebrand comments about Islam, Wilders has been under 24-hour state protection since 2004.
"Whatever you find of the cartoon competition, there is no reason to put a price of death on somebody's head for it," Wilders said.
Addressing Latif personally, Wilders, known for his peroxide bouffant hairdo, said "your call to have me murdered will never silence me".
But at the time, the plan to stage the contest received widespread criticism at home, with politicians, local media and ordinary citizens slamming the idea as needlessly antagonising Muslims.
Latif's call resonated in the real world, Kuipers said.
A Dutch court in 2019 sentenced a Pakistani man to 10 years in prison for plotting to assassinate Wilders in the wake of the cancelled contest.
The man, identified as Junaid I. was arrested in 2018 at a train station in The Hague after he posted a film on Facebook in which he said he wanted to "send Wilders to hell" and urged others to help.
The verdict is due to be handed down on September 11.
Latif, 37, who played five one-day internationals and 13 T20Is for Pakistan, was banned from cricket for five years in 2017 for spot-fixing in a Pakistan Super League match in Dubai.
Latif, who had shown tremendous early promise as a cricketer but failed to make an impact at international level, made his last Pakistan appearance against the West Indies in Abu Dhabi in September 2016.
He completed his ban last year and has since been living a low-profile life in Karachi, coaching at club level.