Pakistani ex-cricketer sentenced to 12 years for threatening Dutch far-right leader

FILE PHOTO: Case against a Pakistani man for incitement to murder Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, in Badhoevedorp

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) -A Dutch court sentenced a Pakistani former cricketer to 12 years in prison on Monday after he was tried in absentia for urging people to murder Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders.

The court ruled that statements by 37-year-old Khalid Latif should be regarded as incitement to murder, sedition and threat.

Latif lives in Pakistan and has not attended any stage of the trial or been detained in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands and Pakistan have no treaties in place regarding judicial cooperation or extradition and earlier cooperation requests in this case received no response, the prosecution has said.

The court said prosecutors had proved that Latif posted a video in 2018, in which he offered a 3 million rupee (around 21,000 euros at the time) reward for the murder of Wilders.

That video came at a time of fierce demonstrations against Wilders in Pakistan, after he had announced a cartoon contest depicting caricatures of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad. The competition was later cancelled.

"The words used by the suspect are explicit: he promises to pay a considerable sum of money to anyone who engages in a specific act, namely the killing of Mr Wilders," the Hague district court said.

"It is very likely that someone - anywhere in the world - would feel compelled to act on this call," the court added in reference to the protests, where Dutch flags had been burned and others had also called for the killing of Wilders.

Images of the Prophet Mohammad are forbidden in Islam as a form of idolatry. Caricatures are regarded by most Muslims as highly offensive.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach Latif - who received a five-year ban from cricket in 2017 over a spot-fixing scandal - for comment. Latif captained the Pakistan team in the 2010 Asian Games.

Wilders, 60, is one of Europe's most prominent far-right leaders and has been a key figure in shaping the immigration debate in the Netherlands over the past two decades, although he has never been in government.

His Freedom Party (PVV) is the third-largest in the Dutch parliament and is the main opposition party. Wilders has lived under constant police protection since 2004.

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)