Belgium shrugged

Diana West reports on the harrowing case of Bart Debie, who has just begun serving a one-year prison sentence for “racism,” in what Diana describes as “fascistic little Belgium.” If her account of Debie’s case is accurate, then her characterization of Belgium is not far wide of the mark.

Debie was a senior police officer in Antwerp in 2003 when, according to Diana’s account, he and several other officers responded to a report of drunk and disorderly conduct. They were attacked by five Turkish men wielding a baseball bat and a knife (two witnesses testified in court that this attack occurred). After helping to subdue and arrest the attackers, Debie was called away to supervise a SWAT team elsewhere in Antwerp, and his men returned to the station with the Turkish prisoners. The prisoners later claimed they had been beaten and subjected to racism while at the station.

Debie believes that the prisoners were, in fact, beaten. But it is undisputed that he was not involved in any beating or racist utterances. Nonetheless, Debie was charged and convicted of creating an atmosphere in which the offensive statements were uttered, and was given a suspended sentence. Meanwhile, the policeman who admitted to making the “racist” comments went unpunished and now serves, according to Debie, on a “team for managing diversity in Antwerp.” The Turks were never charged for their assault on police.

Debie then committed his real “offense.” He decided to decided to run for a seat on the Antwerp city council as a member of the Vlaams Belang party. To make matters, he was elected.

Vlaams Belang seeks Flemish independence from Belgium through the political process, and it opposes the Islamization of European culture. Consequently, it is hated by Belgium’s left-wing establishment which, as Diana observes, encourages such Islamization “in part to help increase their own constituencies.”

After Debie became a political force, the prosecution appealed his case. This time it secured a “racism” conviction for remarks Debie didn’t make during an incident at which he was not present. In addition to a stiff fine and a prison sentence of one year, the government of Belgium has stripped him of his political and civil rights for 12 years locally and five years nationally. Debie is not even certain if he can proceed with his marriage plans.

Debie is not the only member of Vlaams Belang to have experienced persecution by the Belgian government. Diana reports that “two of the leading members of the party, Filip Dewinter and Frank Vanhecke, are facing legal battles of their own to retain their political rights and viability against other completely bogus charges of ‘racism’–the favored bludgeon of PC Belgians desperate to retain centralized power.”

Democracy and political freedom are fragile things, though we in the United States have not yet had much occasion to appreciate this reality. Based on my understanding of the situation in Belgium, which is based in part on conversations with members of Vlaams Belang (though not Debie, Dewinter, or Vanhecke), democracy is broken in there, and quite possibly on its way to extinction.

UPDATE: Diana West has informed me that Debie was released from jail after his first day. He is now under under some kind of an electronic surevillance/home arrest arrangement.

Debie remains stripped of his civil and political rights, his council seat, and his police career. But at least he doesn’t face the prospect of being confronted in jail by what he calls his “former clients.”

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