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In a landmark decision, a Ghent court has sentenced Flemish politician Dries Van Langenhove to one year in prison and a fine of 16,000 euros for violating laws on racism and denialism. The court also imposed a suspended sentence for violating the Weapons Law and annulled his political rights for 10 years. This is a significant sentence, as punishments for apologizing for Nazism are typically minor.

Van Langenhove, known as an “agitator” and with far-right sympathies, founded the group Schild & Vrienden which promoted far-right ideologies and had connections to businesses selling knives and pepper sprays. The court found that he attracted others to his racist speech and created a hostile atmosphere in society.

Six other members of the group, including party workers and a member of the Eurochamber, were also convicted. Vlaams Belang, the far-right party leading the polls, defended its militants and criticized the ruling, calling Belgian justice system “rotten”. The case began with a television report in 2018 exposing the racist and denialist comments exchanged within the group.

The judges concluded that the group was guilty of inciting hatred and applying discriminatory policies. Members of the group targeted individuals based on their race and religion, leading to harassment and abuse. This case highlights the use of humor and private forums to spread hate and discrimination. It is a reminder of ongoing threat posed by individuals who hide their extremist ideologies behind jokes

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