Ghent policeman who wrote racist comments on Facebook acquitted on appeal

A Ghent local policeman, who wrote racist comments on Facebook, is not guilty of inciting racial hatred or discrimination, the Ghent Court of Appeal ruled on Tuesday.

This confirms the ruling of the Ghent Criminal Court around a year ago.

The newspaper De Gentenaar noted that the facts of the case were that the policeman, aged 56, published a photo in which coloured individuals were attacking an American police vehicle on his Facebook page. He compared the image to another where baboons were jumping on a car.

The caption for the post read: “Monkeys have the capacity to learn, unlike these jungle blacks.”

Also on his profile page, underneath the photo of a Syrian refugee, the policeman posted: “On the way to all-inclusive holidays in the Netherlands and Belgium. And we’re paying for this!”

The Public Prosecutor’s Office argued that the charges were sufficient for the policeman to have to be tried.

On January 28th, 2016, the judge in the Criminal Court held that the insults were racist but did not accept that they amounted to racial hatred.

The accused was thus, at that time, acquitted. The Public Prosecutor appealed the decision, seeking a three-month suspended sentence for the accused.

However, the Court of Appeal upheld the decision of the Ghent Criminal Court and let the policeman off without prosecution.

UNIA, the inter-federal centre for equal opportunities, which brought a civil action in the case, considered that the verdict was indeed clear. However, it considered that police employees had no right to express themselves in this way.

The Manager of the centre, Patrick Charlier, regretted, “Without wishing to create (legal) controversy, the behaviour of the police inspector in question was, in any case, of such a nature that it risked jeopardizing the credibility of police action in the fight against racism. Protecting citizens against all forms of racism is, quite rightly, the police’s mission.”

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