Double murder trial today
1 October 2007
BRUSSELS (AFP) – A 19-year-old far-right extremist goes on trial Monday in Antwerp for the racially driven murder in May last year of a young girl and her African nanny which sent shockwaves across Belgium.
Hans Van Themsche is to be tried under a new law against hate crimes — the first time it has been used since it came on the books in 2003 — according to a spokesman for the prosecutor.
Two months after the killing, some 20,000 people participated in a march against racism in Antwerp, Belgium’s northern second city.
The murder investigation revealed that although the youth was previously unknown to police, he was deeply involved in the local extreme-right movement.
Van Themsche stands stands accused of murdering Luna Drowart, a two-year-old girl, and Oulematou Miangadou, her 24-year-old Malian nanny, as well as trying to kill 47-year-old Turkish woman, Songul Koc.
Under the new hate crime rules, he faces from three years of prison up to life if found guilty.
On 11 May last year, Van Themsche, who was studying animal care at a technical school in the southwestern town of Roulers, shaved his head to take on a skinhead look.
He then bought a hunting rifle and started firing it in the small streets in the historic centre of the port city.
Van Themsche first fired on and badly injured Koc while she was reading on a bench before shooting Luna and her nanny in a nearby street as Niangadou had her back turned to him.
His rampage was only stopped when a policeman shoot and wounded him.
After his arrest, Van Themsche said that he had been looking for foreigners to kill.
The youth, who was kicked out of his boarding school for smoking in his room two days before, told friends that he wanted to “end it all” by killing five to 10 immigrants before being killed by police.
During the investigation, he said that his extreme right convictions firmed after being harassed by young immigrants at his school.
Police found at his parents’ house far-right music, a knife with “Blood and Honour” inscribed on it in German as well as a copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which was given to him by his grandfather who had served with Nazis in the eastern front during the war.
One week after the double murder, Belgian lawmakers tightened laws on selling arms, which until then allowed some types of guns to be sold freely.
The trial begins Monday at 9 am with the choosing of 12 jurors and Van Themsche’s hearing should begin in the afternoon.
[Copyright AFP 2007]
Subject: Belgian news