PERSECUTION: Former Belgian MP sentenced to year in prison for “hateful memes” shared in private group (and he didn’t even post them himself)
By Ethan Huff // Mar 15, 2024

For the "crime" of sharing a humorous meme that some people found offensive, Belgian national activist and former member of parliament (MP) Dries Van Langenhove has been sentenced to one year in prison.

The meme was shared in a private group where people are said to routinely share "racist" and "antisemitic" memes. Not only will Van Langenhove have to sit in a prison cell for 365 days because of his participation in this, but he will also reportedly have to shell out a 16,000 euro fine, as well as face 10 years of "deprived civil rights," meaning he will not be able to participate in any kind of politics for the next decade.

"His crime?" wrote Keith Woods on Twitter about Van Langenhove's punishment. "He was in a private groupchat where offensive memes were posted. This is an absolute disgrace. Western regimes are reaching new levels of tyranny to suppress nationalism."

X owner Elon Musk drew attention to the case as well, retweeting tweets from Van Langenhove himself showing the "shocking memes" that were shared in the private group chat that landed him in prison.

"Someone else sent this meme in a group chat and you were given a prison sentence?" Musk asked Van Langenhove.

"Yes," Van Langenhove responded.

"Even though the judge (and the media) admitted that I never sent any of these memes, he argued that I should have done more to keep others from sending them and he labeled the memes 'hatespeech,' which is a punishable offense in Belgium."

(Related: Earlier this year, Israel bombed a Belgian relief agency in Gaza as punishment for the entity funding United Nations [UN] relief efforts for Palestinian refugees.)

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Using meme "offenses" to quash nationalist political opponents

For the record, Van Langenhove founded Belgium's largest and most influential political youth movement back in 2017. At some point later before Musk bought the platform and took it private, Twitter, as it was called back then, banned the movement.

According to Van Langenhove, there was also a Facebook group at one point with around 900 activists, as well as a Discord chat with many hundreds of users. In one of the groups, someone said "post your edgiest meme," to which several of the offensive memes were then posted.

Van Langenhove shared publicly what the memes were: one involved black people and the police; another depicted Adolph Hitler saying "you can't be racist if there's only one race!" and the last one was some kind of joke about Ferrero Rocher candy, again depicting black people.

"The edgy memes ... were posted to this thread," Van Langenhove said. "A thread in which I didn't participate."

"Now, 7 years later, I am the leading nationalist activist in Belgium and the Netherlands and I am linked to the party that will win the coming elections in Belgium. The regime wants to shut us down so they are using memes that were posted by others 7 years ago to put me in prison."

Van Langenhove is insistent that he committed no crimes by simply being a member of these private groups. The Justice Department's witch hunt against him is simply that: a witch hunt.

"A years-long investigation, on which the Justice Department wasted millions of euros of taxpayers' money, shows that the ... activists cannot be charged with anything other than some memes. Humor. Memes that I didn't even post myself," he maintains.

Van Langenhove's lawyer is planning to appeal the ruling, which automatically suspends Van Langenhove's imprisonment until further notice.

Sources for this article include:

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