Former Parliament Member Gets a Year in Prison

( – A Belgian court on Tuesday sentenced a far-right former member of parliament for his involvement in an organization that a judge determined was spreading racist and Nazi speech, the Associated Press reported.

Dries Van Langenhove, a former member of the Belgian parliament, was sentenced to one year in prison while five members of Shield and Friends, the extremist organization he led, were given suspended sentences. Two of the members were from the Flemish Interest Party, a far-right party that is set to make gains in Belgium’s upcoming elections in June.

Flemish Interest Party leader Tom Van Grieken said the ruling proved that the country’s justice system was “rotten to the core.” He blasted the case as a “political trial” from the start.

As part of his sentence, some of Van Langenhove’s civil rights were suspended for ten years, disqualifying him from running for office. He was also fined €16,000 (or $17,470 US).

At the heart of the case was a 2018 documentary by investigative journalists from Belgium’s VRT public broadcaster which highlighted Van Langenhove’s Shield and Friends organization’s extremist and militaristic activities.

Judge Jan Van den Berghe, who oversaw the case, accused Van Langenhove of raving about “Nazi ideology” and said the evidence showed that the former parliamentarian sought to replace “democratic society” with “a social model of white supremacy.”

Shield and Friends was accused of exchanging antisemitic and racist comments via a chat group. The chats featured memes and jokes making light of horrors like Nazi concentration camps and famines in Africa.

The 30-year-old Van Langenhove denied that he committed any crimes and blasted the Belgian Justice Department for wasting millions on a multi-year investigation only to charge activists over “some memes” that he did not personally post.

The right-wing activist did not attend the court proceedings in Ghent. However, Van Langenhove’s lawyer said the ruling would be appealed.

With the appeal, Van Langenhove’s prison sentence will be automatically suspended.

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