HomeEntertainmentBelgian far-right activist sentenced to 1 year in jail for racist speech

Belgian far-right activist sentenced to 1 year in jail for racist speech

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A court in Belgium convicted prominent far-right activist Dries Van Langenhove to a year in prison on Tuesday for what the judge called “racist, hateful, Nazi and negationist speech” in a major ruling on how the nation deals with extremism.

Five members of the extremist group that Van Langenhove led received suspended sentences, including two who work for the far-right Flemish Interest party, which is slated to make big gains in June elections.

Tom Van Grieken, the leader of the Flemish Interest party, said the ruling was proof that “Belgian justice is rotten to the core” and called the proceedings “a political trial from day one.”

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The six were accused of using a chat group to exchange racist, antisemitic and other extremist comments. Ghent University and a human rights group were among the civil parties who sought and received damages.

Dries Van Langenhove attends a lecture by Dutch politician Baudet, founder and chairman of Dutch far-right political party Forum voor Democratie, at Ghent University on Oct. 26, 2023. Van Langenhove was sentenced to a year in prison by a Belgian court for racist, hateful speech. (James Arthur Gekiere / BELGA MAG / AFP via Getty Images)

Investigative journalists from the VRT public broadcaster were at the heart of the case when a 2018 documentary on Van Langenhove’s Shield and Friends group highlighted its public and private militaristic and extremist activities.

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“The defendant raved about Nazi ideology, which has caused and continues to cause untold suffering to countless people. The file showed that he wants to undermine democratic society and replace it with a social model of white supremacy,” said Judge Jan Van den Berghe.

Van Langenhove was not at the court in Ghent, some 30 miles west of Brussels, but his lawyer said he would appeal the ruling, which automatically suspends his imprisonment. He was also fined $17,470.

Right-wing extremism, racism and antisemitism has been on the rise through much of Europe and far-right political parties have made big inroads in many European Union nations over the past few years. They’re set to be a key issue at the June 6-9 EU elections.

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