Politics

Ex-MP Sentenced to Year in Prison in Belgium over Hate Speech

Court rules group chat “jokes” were actually “Nazi ideology… white supremacy” hate speech, and that a group chat constitutes a public space, sentencing Flemish former parliamentarian to prison.

The Ghent Criminal Court determined that former Parliamentarian Dries Van Langenhove “was infatuated with Nazi ideas” and “wanted to undermine democratic society”, while sentencing him to a year in prison, barring him from holding public office for 10 years, and ordering him to pay a fine of €16,000 ($17,500/£13,700).

The founder and leader of the Flemish nationalist youth organization Schild & Vrienden, which advocates for independence for the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders to break away from the rest of Belgium, was reported in 2018 by public broadcaster VRT to have been involved in a Facebook group that shared alleged racist memes and messages as well as expressing sympathy for Nazi ideology. Belgium, like many countries in Europe, has criminal penalties for denying or celebrating the Holocaust.

“The defendant was infatuated with Nazi ideology, which in its implementation caused and continues to cause untold human suffering. The file shows that he wanted to undermine democratic society and replace it with his social model of white supremacy,” the court said according to Het Laatste Nieuws.

During his trial, Van Langenhove’s legal team argued that many of the messages shared in the group were merely jokes, but the court was not convinced by this argument, claiming that the use of humour served to solidify racist beliefs among those sharing the jokes.

“The forums repeatedly and systematically mocked groups of the population on the basis of so-called race, skin color, nationality, national or ethnic origin or descent, and presented a negative image of these groups or communities and insulted them,” the court added.

The former member of the Belgian Chamber of Representatives also argued that because the messages were shared in a private group, it could not be argued that he was publicly inciting racism, discrimination, segregation, or hatred to others. However, the court found that because the private Facebook group had around 750 members, it could be regarded effectively as a public space.

The head of Van Langenhove’s political party, Vlaams Belang, chairman Tom Van Grieken decried the verdict: “Belgian justice is rotten through and through. Raping children aged 13 and 15? One year conditional. Want to share distasteful ‘memes’? Effective for one year…This has been a political process from day one.”

Dutch political activist Eva Vlaardingerbroek was also heavily critical of the ruling, writing on social media: “This is the absolute state of freedom of speech in Europe. They’re jailing patriotic dissidents. Next time they’ll do this to me, you or anyone who goes against the globalist regime.

“I’m seriously lost for words here. This is full-blown tyranny and we should fight it with all our might.”

Others expressed glee at the decision, including Green party co-chair Nadia Naji, who said: “This ruling is an important victory for everyone fighting for fair opportunities for all… Greens will never tolerate or normalise racism, because racism is always and everywhere reprehensible and painful.”

Follow Kurt Zindulka on X: or e-mail to: kzindulka@breitbart.com



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