Today the Belgian Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, barred Daniel Féret, the 62-year old leader of the Belgian anti-immigrant party Front National (FN), from running for and taking up elected political office in the next ten years. Mr Féret is a candidate in next Sunday’s local elections in Belgium. The FN, which only puts forward candidates in Brussels and Wallonia, the French-speaking Southern half of Belgium, is expected to gain in these elections. If Mr Féret is elected, as is expected, he will not be allowed to take up his seat.
Professor Marc Uyttendaele, a Brussels lawyer who is the husband of Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian minister of Justice, said that the ruling also implies that Mr Féret, who is a parliamentarian in the Brussels regional assembly, at once loses his parliamentary seat in this assembly, where he was elected in 2004. Earlier Mr Féret, who is a medical doctor, served terms in the Belgian federal parliament and in the European Parliament.
The Cour de Cassation also ruled that Mr Féret will have to do 250 hours of public service work in the “integration sector,” helping immigrants to integrate. If he refuses, he will be sent to jail for 10 months. Mr Féret indicated recently that he would prefer to go to jail than to work amongst immigrants who, he fears, regard him as a mortal enemy and are capable of lynching him. It is not clear how the authorities are going to protect his safety if he accepts to work among immigrants.
The Cour de Cassation also convicted Georges-Pierre Tonnelier, the 28-year old parliamentary assistant of Mr Féret, to a penalty of 744 euros. Mr Tonnelier will not be allowed to stand for election during the next seven years.
Both men were found guilty of racism for publishing a leaflet against the establishment of a center for refugees and asylum seekers in the Brussels borough of Sint-Pieters-Woluwe. According to the court the pamphlet was an “irrational amalgam inciting racial hatred” and “equating immigrants with thieves, delinquents, criminals, even terrorists.” The leaflet contained a statement that 9/11 was the work of “the couscous clan.” Couscous is a traditional Arab dish. The leaflet also included a cartoon of minister Onkelinx, one of the leaders of the Belgian Socialists, carrying a suitcase of money to immigrants. The court holds that the cartoon leads people to believe that the Belgian taxpayers’ money is primarily spent on foreigners. The court also said that the FN party slogan “Les Belges et les Européens d’abord!” (Belgians and Europeans First!) proves the party’s “national and European preference,” and hence its racism and xenophobia.
Two years ago the Belgian Supreme Court ruled that the Vlaams Blok, the largest party in Flanders, the northern half of Belgium, was a criminal organisation. The VB leaders disbanded their party and established a new one, the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest). It is expected to win between 25 and 30% of the votes in next Sunday’s local elections in Flanders.
Yesterday the Belgian authorities announced that court procedures to defund the VB will begin on October 17th.
Belgian political parties are funded by the state in accordance with the number of voters gained in the last elections. It is illegal for parties to accept private donations. On the grounds that it is illogical for the state to fund its own enemies, parties that are considered to be “enemies of the state” can be defunded by the judges of a Belgian administrative court, the Council of State (CoS). Last May a procedure was initiated by the Socialist Party to defund the Vlaams Belang.
According to Marc Uyttendaele, minister Onkelinx’s husband, the VB is an “enemy of the Belgian state” because it rejects the ideology of multiculturalism and aims for the dissolution of Belgium and the establishment of an independent Flanders. The CoS is expected to issue its verdict later this year or in early 2007. The Vlaams Belang has challenged all the French-speaking CoS judges. According to the VB a francophone judge cannot issue an impartial verdict in a case involving a Flemish secessionist party.
Yesterday the Flemish leftist newspaper De Morgen revealed that Murat Denizli, a candidate of Mrs Onkelinx’s Parti Socialiste in the Brussels borough of Schaarbeek, is a member of the Fascist Turkish organisation Grey Wolves. Ironically, apart from the Vlaams Belang and the Front National, all the Belgian parties – Christian-Democrats, Socialists, Liberals and Greens – have put forward far-right immigrant candidates for the elections. Mr Denizli is the past president of the Association Culturelle Turque in Schaarbeek. The ACT is a subsidiary of the Turkish far-right Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP). “Officially I am no longer far-right,” Mr Denizli said in a recent interview. He claimed that the MHP is “an ordinary right-wing party.” It would be interesting to compare the leaflets of the MHP about Armenians and Kurds to those of the Belgian FN about Muslim immigrants.