Belgium court sentences prominent far-right activist Dries Van Langenhove to prison News
Belgium court sentences prominent far-right activist Dries Van Langenhove to prison

Dries Van Langenhove, leader of the Belgian far-right movement Schild & Vrienden, was sentenced on Tuesday to one year in prison and fined €24,000 ($26, 249 ). The Ghent Correctional Court issued its verdict in the case against Van Langenhove and six other defendants who were all charged with violations of racism and negationism laws, including Holocaust denial.

The case against Van Langenhove and his co-defendants was joined by several civil parties, including two NGOs, Unia and the Human Rights League, the University of Ghent, a former VTR-broadcast employee and former magistrate Henri Heimans.

Van Langenhove and his co-defendants faced multiple charges during the trial. However, only Van Langenhove was found guilty on all counts, which encompassed several violations of Belgian law. These include the membership in an organization advocating discrimination and segregation; the denial, minimization, justification, or approval of the Holocaust; the dissemination of racist ideas and racial superiority; the incitement to discrimination, segregation, hate, and violence based on nationality, skin color and ethnic origin; as well as the illegal sale or offering of pepper spray.

In its ruling, the correctional court in Ghent barred Van Langenhove from holding public office for 10 years. Five of his co-defendants also received short jail terms and one received a conditional suspended sentence. Although the ruling is deemed a victory by all civil parties, both Van Langenhove and a number of co-defendants have already announced their intention to appeal the verdict at the Court of Appeal.

Van Langenhove is the founder and leader of the Flemish far-right youth movement Schild & Vrienden and a former member of parliament for Vlaams Belang, a Flemish nationalist right-wing party. Van Langenhove, as well as several members of Schild & Vrienden, came under scrutiny after a Pano documentary in 2018 exposed the inner workings of the organization. It revealed a pattern of sharing racist, sexist and denialist memes among its members in a closed group chat. Consequently, the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office initiated a judicial investigation into the matter, leading to the organization being subjected to criminal investigation and surveillance since 2019.