Key case against Vlaams Blok goes to court
1 March 2004, BRUSSELS – A key court case that should determine whether or not Flemish far-right political party the Vlaams Blok is legally racist opened in the city of Ghent on Monday.
1 March 2004
BRUSSELS – A key court case that should determine whether or not Flemish far-right political party the Vlaams Blok is legally racist opened in the city of Ghent on Monday.
The trial has been overshadowed by the Marc Dutroux affair so has achieved little media attention, but anti-racism campaigners say its outcome could have serious repercussions on Belgian politics.
The case against the Vlaams Blok has been brought by two civil liberties organisations, the Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism and the Human Rights League.
Both organisations claim the Vlaams Blok's political literature and speeches made by its members contravene a 1981 Belgian law against racism and xenophobia.
The two groups originally began their legal fight against the Blok four
years ago, but have had to deal with a number of legal setbacks.
In 2001 a court in Brussels said it was not competent to hear the complaint because it could not deal with political questions. Then in 2003 the Brussels appeal court said it too did not have the authority to hear such a case and handed the dossier over to magistrates at the Ghent appeal court.
The anti-racism campaigners say that if the Ghent court does not find in their favour, then more and more political parties, particularly in Flanders, may consider doing electoral deals with the Vlaams Blok.
The far-right Blok's anti-foreigner rhetoric has found considerable popular support in Flanders. But up until now none of the region's main political groupings have wanted to be associated with the party.
Many analysts say this could soon change however. They point to the recent debacle over foreigners voting rights in Belgium as evidence for this and suggest some parties, including Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt's own Flemish Liberal Party (VLD) could consider doing deals with the Blok, especially if the Ghent court finds in the far-right party's favour.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Belgian news