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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 14:29 GMT
Belgian far-right wins legal fight
Leader Frank Vanhecke (c) with other Vlaams Blok politicians
Vlaams Blok leaders declared the result a victory for free speech
Legal attempts to remove funding from Belgium's far-right Vlaams Blok have failed, after a court refused to rule on the matter.

The case was brought by two human rights groups, which accused three organisations linked to the party of publishing racist campaign material.

The groups argued that the use of racist material should disqualify the party from receiving public funding - the only legal source of funds under Belgian law.

But the Brussels Appeals Court ruled on Wednesday that it had no jurisdiction because the case was politically motivated, backing a decision taken by a lower court.

The ruling is a political victory for the Vlaams Blok, but more importantly a victory for freedom of speech in this country
Frank Vanhecke
Vlaams Blok president
The Vlaams Blok, which wants independence for Flanders, was accused by the groups of singling out immigrants and people of North African origin in its campaign material.

The party took 15% of the vote in Flanders in a general election four years ago, winning it 15 seats in parliament.

"The ruling is a political victory for the Vlaams Blok, but more importantly a victory for freedom of speech in this country," said Vlaams Blok leader Frank Vanhecke.

The two human rights groups, Belgium's official anti-racism body and the Human Rights League, might appeal to the Supreme Court.

They claimed that the three organisations were helping a party "engaged in and promoting discrimination and segregation".

Loss of funding would have dealt the Vlaams Blok a crippling blow, only three months ahead of Belgian general elections.

The Vlaams Blok has its power base in Antwerp, where it has the support of around a third of the population of half a million.




SEE ALSO:
Belgium's far right
09 Oct 00 |  Europe
Country profile: Belgium
12 Apr 02 |  Country profiles


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