Prosecution calls for suspended prison sentence for far-right activist Dries Van Langenhove
The public prosecutor's office has demanded a two-year prison sentence for far-right activist and former politician Dries Van Langenhove, who is on trial for violating Belgium's racism, negationism and weapons laws. The prosecutor added, however, that an eventual prison sentence should be suspended and not lead to jail time.
Dries Van Langenhove is the founder of the extreme right-wing Flemish nationalist movement Schild & Vrienden. He is accused of spreading racism and negationism via Discord and Facebook groups and of possessing pepper spray. For the six other defendants, who were all part of the movement, the prosecution called for six-month sentences.
On Tuesday, the prosecution described the content of the social media groups as "a cesspool of hatespeech, racist and negationist material".
The prosecution argues that Van Langenhove should receive the harshest sentence because he was the undisputed leader of the group. "He led both the open and the closed [social media] groups and recruited a large number of members himself. He was the leader in both the physical and virtual world."
Jail time and fines
For violating the racism and negationism laws, the prosecution is asking for a one-year prison sentence and a fine of 16,000 euros, with an additional year in prison and 8,000 euros for possession of pepper spray. The other six defendants should each receive a six-month jail sentence and 8,000 euro fines.
The prosecution, however, believes that the sentences should be suspended and that the defendants should not be sent to prison. It wants to "send a clear message that what they did is unacceptable. That their racist and negationist thinking is the danger," the prosecutor said on Tuesday.
The prosecution also demanded that Van Langenhove be disqualified from standing for election for 10 years, which would make continuing his political career impossible. From 2019 to 2023, Van Langenhove had a seat in the Belgian Chamber of Representatives as an independent member of the far-right party Vlaams Belang.
Hans Rieder, Van Langenhove's lawyer, said they would "reserve our wisdom for the court of appeal". Van Langenhove wrote on social media on Tuesday morning that he believed he would not receive a fair trial from the court and that he intended to appeal the verdict.
The trial was scheduled to begin in September, but has been delayed several times due to Van Langenhove's unsuccessful appeals. The verdict will be delivered on 12 March.
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