Historic Ruling: Far-Right Politician Sentenced for Private Hate Speech and Discrimination

Harsh criticism of Flemish “denialist agitator” who hides hate with humor and memes

In a historic ruling, a Ghent court has sentenced Flemish politician Dries Van Langenhove to one year in prison and a fine of €16,000 for hate speech and discrimination. Additionally, he was given a suspended sentence for violating the Weapons Law and his political rights were revoked for 10 years. This punishment is considered one of the most severe for apologizing for Nazism, as such crimes are usually met with leniency. However, the crimes were not committed in public forums but rather in private Facebook or Discord groups where jokes were made.

Van Langenhove, who is associated with far-right party Vlaams Belang, founded a group called Schild & Vrienden which promoted racist ideologies. The court found that he attracted others to his racist speech and created a hostile atmosphere in society. Along with six other members of the group, Van Langenhove was convicted of inciting hatred and discrimination. Vlaams Belang has defended its members, claiming that justice in Belgium is corrupt.

The case began in 2018 when a television report exposed the racist and denialist comments exchanged in the group. The court’s decision was based on laws prohibiting denial of the Nazi genocide and acts inspired by racism and xenophobia. The judges concluded that the group had engaged in hate speech and discriminatory behavior targeting individuals based on their race and religion. This behavior led to harassment and abuse of individuals like Jihad Van Puymbroeck and writer Dalilla Hermans.

The ruling highlights the seriousness of hate speech and discrimination even when communicated through private channels or disguised as jokes. It challenges the notion that offensive speech is protected under freedom of expression. The case serves as a reminder that hate, abuse, harassment, and discrimination have no place in society, regardless of how they are communicated.

In conclusion, this ruling sets an important precedent that will help combat hate speech and discrimination online while also respecting free speech rights. It shows that even if these crimes are committed privately or disguised as humor, they can still be punished severely if they create a hostile environment or harm individuals based on their race or religion.

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