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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 October 2007, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
Belgian jailed for race killings
Roman Drowart, right, father of the murdered toddler
The murdered toddler's father was among the relatives in court
A Belgian teenager has been sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a Malian nanny and her two-year-old charge in a racist shooting spree.

An Antwerp court found Hans van Themsche guilty of killing Oulematou Niangadou and then shooting toddler Luna Drowart when she started crying.

Van Themsche, 19, also shot and wounded a woman of Turkish descent during his rampage in central Antwerp in May 2006.

He was stopped when a policeman shot him in the stomach.

He later told police he had hoped to kill at least five foreigners before dying in a hail of police bullets.

The jury rejected a defence argument that Van Themsche was mentally ill.

Right-wing links

"You acted with blind violence, without any respect for the lives and integrity of others," judge Michel Jordens said.

"You reduced the value of life to nothing in order to affirm yourself," he said.

Police say Van Themsche's father helped found the now defunct anti-immigration party Vlaams Blok, and his aunt is an MP for its successor, Vlaams Belang.

The 19-year-old showed no reaction as his sentence was read out.

The time he serves could be extended by two years, as he was the first person convicted under a law introduced in 2003 to punish racist crimes.

After the shooting last year, lawmakers tightened rules against selling arms, and some 20,000 people participated in a march in Antwerp against racism.

The lawyer for the toddler's parents, Jef Vermassen, said there were jubilant scenes after the verdict.

"I have never seen more beautiful scenes than inside this courtroom," he said.

"I saw Luna's parents hug a black man from the family of the babysitter. I watched and saw Luna's mother shut her eyes. And when it was over and she came to kiss me... she said it's a small victory. Luna won't come back, but this is justice."

SEE ALSO
Blow to Belgium's far right
09 Nov 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Belgium
26 Mar 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Belgium
09 May 06 |  Country profiles



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