Ex-Parliament Member Sentenced to One Year Behind Bars

(UnitedHeadlines.com) – A Belgian court has sentenced former Parliamentarian Dries Van Langenhove, 30, to one year in prison after determining that he “was infatuated with Nazi ideas” and had been running an organization that spread “racist, hateful, Nazi and negationist speech.”

In a March 12 ruling, Judge Jan Van den Berghe also suspended some of Van Langenhove’s civil rights for a decade, which makes him ineligible for office. In the ruling, Van den Berghe said Van Langenhove wants to replace “democratic society” with a “social model of white supremacy.” Van Langenhove was fined 16,000 euros, the equivalent of $17,470.

The case began in 2018, when public broadcaster VRT reported in a documentary about Van Langenhove’s organization, Shield and Friends, that the organization had allegedly shared racist and antisemitic memes in Facebook group chats. The chats included jokes and memes about various topics, from Holocaust concentration camps to famine in Africa.

Following the VRT documentary, some of the parties in the case lodged complaints.

In court, Van Langenhove’s attorneys argued that he did not commit any crimes, stating that many of the chat messages shared were jokes. His attorneys also argued that because the chat messages were shared in a private group, Van Langenhove was not publicly inciting racism.

However, the court ruled the private Facebook group, which has 750 members, was considered a public space. The court added that jokes solidified “racist beliefs” among the members of the Facebook group.

Van Langenhove reacted to the sentence by saying the government had wasted “millions of euros of taxpayers’ money” to charge him for memes “That I didn’t even post myself.”

The leader of the Flemish Interest party, Tom Van Grieken, said the proceedings had been “a political trial from day one.”

Dutch political activist Eva Vlaardingerbroek criticized the ruling, saying, “They’re jailing patriotic dissidents,” adding that it is “full-blown tyranny.”

Five other members of the Shield and Friends organization received suspended sentences.

His attorney said he will appeal the ruling.

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