Trial against far-right youth movement Schild & Vrienden to begin in September

The trial of Schild & Vrienden, the far-right Flemish nationalist youth movement, opened at the Criminal Court in Ghent on Tuesday. The court will hear the case on 12 September. Former independent MP and founder of the movement Dries Van Langenhove and six co-defendants face charges including racism and negationism.

Van Langenhove founded the youth movement in 2016 as a Facebook group to share provocative right-wing memes. However, the group soon began to organise itself politically.

In March 2017, Schild & Vrienden came under scrutiny when it attempted to disrupt events organised by the far-left Comac student organisation. In May that year, members gathered in person for the first time at Ghent University to prevent left-wing activists from boycotting a lecture by N-VA politician Theo Francken.

Criminal investigation

A year later, in September 2018, the East Flanders public prosecutor's office opened a criminal investigation against Schild & Vrienden. The case arose following an edition of the VRT programme Pano, which showed members exchanging racist and antisemitic messages in secret chat groups.

That didn't stop Van Langenhove from running as an independent candidate for the far-right Vlaams Belang in the 2019 national elections. He was elected to the Chamber of Representatives with 39,295 preferential votes. Shortly after that, he was officially suspected of violating the Anti-Racism Act, the Negationism Act and the Weapons Act.

Resignation as MP

The Chamber of Representatives decided to lift his parliamentary immunity in March 2021. In early 2023, Van Langenhove announced his resignation as an MP. He said he wanted to continue his activism and media work and to give more weight to Vlaams Belang's position on migration, which he said was being "systematically ignored" by the media. In the run-up to the 2024 national elections, he wants to help Vlaams Belang win.

But first, he and his six co-defendants must appear before the Criminal Court in Ghent. Tuesday's hearing lasted only a few minutes. The court intends to hear the case on 12 September and did not grant any further postponement.


#FlandersNewsService | Schild & Vrienden founding member Dries Van Langenhove at a Vlaams Belang press conference in May 2019 after the regional, federal and European elections © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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