Flemish Interest faces ban over racist shooting

15th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

15 May 2006, BRUSSELS — A political row has erupted over whether the extreme-right Flemish Interest can be held accountable for last week's Antwerp racist shooting.

15 May 2006

BRUSSELS — A political row has erupted over whether the extreme-right Flemish Interest can be held accountable for last week's Antwerp racist shooting. 

In the Sunday televised political debates, politicians and judicial experts were highly critical of the Flemish Interest, claiming the party created a racist climate that partly led to last week's double murder.

"People become more racist because they breathe that in every day," criminal lawyer Jef Vermassen said in the television programme 'De Zevende Dag'.

Judicial psychologist Geert De Bruecker said the murders would not have been possible without the climate that the Flemish Interest had created.

Liberal VLD chairman Bart Somers was critical about the tone the Flemish Interest uses to talk about immigrants, urging for a more positive message.

But Left-wing Spirit MP Fouad Ahidar went a step further, calling for an inquiry to determine whether the Flemish Interest can be banned.

Spirit chairman Geert Lambert said it is not the intention that one party can ban another. "But in Germany, the Constitutional Court examines whether political parties can participate in elections. In Belgium, that Arbitration Court could play that role".

But the Flemish Interest defended itself at a party congress in Mechelen, claiming it was also a victim of the brutal shooting. It held a minute's silence for the victims.

And the party rounded sharply on Liberal VLD Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, who had pointed an accusing finger at the Flemish Interest after Thursday's murders.

"You have not behaved as statesman but as a pyromaniac," it said, adding that Verhofstadt was a "pathetic vulture".

Party chairman Frank Vanhecke stressed that the Flemish Interest could not be blamed for the shooting, but was instead being singled out for political reasons.

But Flemish Interest leader Filip Dewinter also said the party distanced itself from "hooligans, skinheads, neo-Nazis and other parasites who want to misuse our movement".

Dewinter's statement came after Flemish Interest MP Jurgen Verstrepen had urged the party to give a clear signal rejecting extremists.

But besides the political debates on Flemish television, debates held on French-speaking programmes also indicated consensus across the linguistic divide on the issue of taking public funding away from the Flemish Interest.

And some 2,000 people demonstrated on Sunday on the Madou Square in Brussels, where the headquarters of the Flemish Interest is located. They were protesting against what they said were the dangerous policies of extreme rights.

The suspect of the Antwerp shooting, 18-year-old Hans Van Themsche, had close family ties with the Flemish Interest.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news

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