On Thursday, the plenum of the House of Representatives decided to lift the parliamentary immunity of Member of Parliament Dries van Langenhove, a member of the Vlaams Belang party, in a case of death threats and defamation against a doctoral researcher from Ghent University. Van Langenhove opposed repeal, and the N-VA also voted against it.
Van Langenhove had already lost his parliamentary immunity in March 2021 as a result of the criminal investigation into his Schild & Frienden movement. The new case is about doctoral researcher Sebastien Van Severen. In March 2018, he wrote inside information about Schild & Vrienden, the far-right group founded by van Langenhove, on an anonymous Twitter account.
However, it was not long before Van Severen’s identity was exposed and Van Langenhove shared an article on his Facebook page accusing the researcher of distributing personal data of students close to Schild & Vrienden. Shortly thereafter, the researcher received death threats and filed a complaint against Van Langenhove and unknown persons.
Then the court started the investigation, which was explained by the public prosecutor at the Ghent Court of Appeal in the Parliamentary Prosecution Committee. It was found, among other things, that the Public Prosecution Service believed there should be a suspicion in favor of van Langenhove, but the majority of the committee indicated that the council chamber could nevertheless order a referral to the criminal court. However, for that to happen, Langenhof’s parliamentary immunity would have to be lifted. The committee ruled, by a majority of five votes to one, that the conditions for this were fulfilled.
The full hall followed the committee during the plenary session on Thursday evening. Vlaams Belang and the N-VA also voted against lifting van Langenhove’s parliamentary immunity.
The latter also opposed this before the vote. According to the far-right MP, he has been subjected to a “witch hunt” for four years and the Attorney General and Attorney General’s Office have already concluded that he made no criminal threats on file. Tom Van Griken, president of Vlaams Belang, spoke of “political persecution”.