Vlaams Belang Chairman Stripped of EU Immunity

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Frank Vanhecke, chairman of the extreme right Belgian Vlaams Belang party and member of the European Parliament, has been stripped of his EU immunity, leaving him open to prosecution for “incitement” under Belgian law.

BRUSSELS (JTA)�— The European Parliament waived the parliamentary immunity of a far-right member from Belgium.

Frank Vanhecke, a Belgian member of the European Parliament for the far-right Vlaams Belang, was accused of incitement to hatred and xenophobia under Belgian law, but could not be prosecuted unless the European Parliament waived his immunity, which it did in a vote on Tuesday.

In spring 2005, a local edition of a Vlaams Belang newsletter, for which Vanhecke was the responsible publisher, printed an article accusing “foreign cultures” of the desecration of a cemetery. The newsletter said such acts are the result of “a culture which no longer has any respect for the dead and for the symbols of a different faith.” The culprits turned out to be local minors. …

Robin Sclafani, the director of the Brussels-based organization Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, said “the fact that Vanhecke’s immunity was waived is a clear sign that parliamentarians are not above the law, especially where racism and incitement to hatred are concerned. We hope that this is a signal that the European Union is committed to holding elections that are free from bigotry and racist rhetoric.”

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