Belgian Judge Sends Far-Right Activist to Jail for ‘Racist, Hateful, Nazi’ Speech

‘He wants to undermine democratic society and replace it with a social model of white supremacy,” a judge said of Dries Van Langenhove.

AP/Jean-Francois Badias, file
The European parliament building at Strasbourg, eastern France, December 12, 2022. AP/Jean-Francois Badias, file

A Belgian court sentenced a prominent rightwing activist, Dries Van Langenhove, to a year in prison on Tuesday and fined him 16,000 euros for what was deemed to be “extremist” speech, sparking concerns from some in Belgium that the trial was politicized. 

“Racist, hateful, Nazi and negationsist” is what the judge called Van Langenhove’s speech. 

“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,” Judge Jan Van den Berghe said, per the Associated Press.

The ruling comes as concerns have been growing for years about rising antisemitism in Europe. A 2018 CNN survey found that more than 25 percent of polled Europeans believed that Jews had too much influence in business, and 20 percent said that Jews had too much influence in media and politics. Shockingly, a third of the more than 7,000 Europeans polled said they knew little or nothing about the Holocaust.

More recently, following the October 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis by Hamas, data from the Anti-Defamation League indicates enormous spikes in antisemitic vandalism, threats, and harassment across Europe.

Van Langenhove, who said he will appeal the ruling, leads an extreme right-wing youth organization, Schild & Vrienden. Five other members of the movement also received suspended sentences, the Associated Press reports, two of whom are affiliated with the far-right Flemish party. 

Rising to prominence by leading youth online group chats espousing antisemitism and racism, Politico notes, Van Langenhove eventually became a Parliament member for four years as part of the Flemish Interest party. The far-right Flemish Interest party is the leading political party in Belgium, according to Politico’s Poll of Polls. 

The leader of the party, Tom Van Grieken, said the trial was political “from day one,” the Associated Press reports, and said that “Belgian justice is rotten to the core.”

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