Friday 12 October 2007

Belgian racist murderer sentenced to life in prison

Murder fuelled by racism

It has come full circle and one can say justice has been done; however, the fallout from this event is generating some interesting commentary that leaves one a bit worried.

In May 2006, an 18-year old man with a privileged upbringing with a nominally extreme right heritage went on a shooting spree with the view of targeting people of a foreign background. [Are you Belgian Suspect – May 2006]

In the process, he shot and killed a Malian nanny, then killed the 2-year old ward who happened to be a white girl when the obviously distressed girl started to cry, he then when on to shoot a Turkish lady who survived the ordeal.

This madness was curtailed when the man got shot in the stomach by a police marksman but that was beginning of a soul-searching analysis of the effect of intolerant anti-immigration rhetoric and populism used to obtain political advantage in Belgium.

Father tries to fool us

The father of Mr. Hans Van Themsche technically disowned his son by saying the boy is sick in some way, but he cannot be exculpated for bringing up his boy in an atmosphere of right-wing and Flemish nationalist tendencies.

At one time he was once a member of the proscribed Vlaams Blok (Flemish Block), the influence of such a community cannot have been benign even though he did say at the trial of his son that they never tolerated racism or right-wing extremism at home nor did he espouse the ideas of the movement itself.

This is an interesting development, because in my write-up last year, the information I gathered showed that his father was a founding member of Vlaams Blok; that would have made him a mover of the ideas of that party – the party reincarnated as Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest Party) and his aunt is a representative of that party in the Flemish parliament, it would be difficult for these people to feign ignorance of their influence on the young man.

Revelations at the trial

During trial of the young man, the Belgian woman of Turkish heritage and birth – Songul Koç – wondered why she was shot and it appears she is still severely traumatised by the event, one can only wish a recovery that allows her to get on with her life.

A witness to the shooting observed and said of the murderer, “He stood there for a moment to make sure he had hit her, he smiled and was clearly pleased with what he had done. Then he calmly walked on.”

In the light of the cold-blooded evil, we hear man eventually tried to apologise in what Ms Koç believes was a mechanical act, not one done from the heart in any sincerity.

Justice for the dead

And so on Wednesday, a jury found the man guilty of all counts of two murders and one of attempted murder saying he was motivated by racism and he was sentenced to life in prison making him the first Belgian to be convicted on a charge of racially motivated murder.

This is fine, but then the Former president of the Appeal Court has waded into this case and asked that the young man be given a second chance. Edwin Van Fraechem believes in the light of a double murder and attempted murder, the opportunity to return to society should be considered saying – “And we need to take this into account. We must not forget that Van Themsche is only 19. We should at least try to re-educate him.”

At a time like this, our thoughts should be with the people who suffered loss, but such crass insensitivity can only be expected when people are trying to peddle influence to subvert the course of justice for a person of privilege.

The precedent of tolerable murder

The judge goes on to recommend a tenure is a state educational facility which he believes offers a more severe regime than a prison which should not last more than 10 years, because he believes the murders were not racially motivated.

If this is not a case of twisting the facts to achieve a dishonest end, I am not sure what is, the report notes that in the 52 cases the judge presided over, he never pronounced a verdict for internment in a state educational home.

Indeed the judge is learned and versed in precedent; this might be advocating the establishment of the institutionalisation of tolerable murder as the question of racially motivated murder can never be countenanced or be of import even if the suspect clearly confesses that his acts were racially motivated.

One should resist the urge to play the race card and turn the tables to consider what would have happened if the hues of the persons involved were switched.

But one is of the mind of trawling through all the cases of this judge to see how he has upheld Belgian law in his deliberation, though one hopes this is just an unfortunate lapse in judgement.

Meanwhile, justice seems to have been done, lock those gates, I know where to put the keys.

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