Lawsuit over Marc Van Ranst's 'reckless' tweets waived

Lawsuit over Marc Van Ranst's 'reckless' tweets waived
© Belga

On Tuesday, Flemish entrepreneur Rudi De Kerpel, who started a lawsuit against prominent virologist Marc Van Ranst this summer, waived the proceedings but maintained his complaint.

De Kerpel demanded €5,000 in damages for lost earnings this summer, after Van Ranst made "reckless statements" on Twitter, and called on people not to go to Antwerp at the time, as the city was fighting “a major Covid-19 outbreak.”

According to De Kerpel, the tweet harmed him as an entrepreneur, and he decided to start civil proceedings against the virologist.

On Tuesday morning, however, the message came that De Kerpel did not want to continue the proceedings. "This is because of the current circumstances and the second wave we are currently facing," De Kerpel's lawyer Davina Simons said at the hearing, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.

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"Additionally, for the time being, we are not in a position to draw up a concrete damage assessment," she said. De Kerpel, however, continues to support his position that Van Ranst's tweet harmed him.

Van Ranst himself opposed the end of the proceedings, reports Het Nieuwsblad. "If you do something, you have to go full steam ahead," he said, adding that while he understood the situation, he felt it was his duty to warn people of the potential dangers.

On Monday 28 August, following the first hearing of the case, Van Ranst already took to Twitter to express his displeasure about the lawsuit, saying that it was a "show trial" whose only purpose was to make him lose time and money.

On Sunday 1 November, during the discussions about the many people shopping in Antwerp the day before Belgium's lockdown went into effect, Van Ranst sent out a tweet similar to the one that started the lawsuit.

Translation: "Antwerp is a vibrant and fantastic city, and its shopping streets are well worth a visit. But not now. The whole country is currently fighting a major Covid19 outbreak. Please plan your visit to the shopping streets when this outbreak is under control again."

The judge decided to let the proceedings continue as planned on Tuesday, and will later deliberate on whether or not to accept the waiver, or judge on the admissibility and merits of the case.

A verdict is expected on 1 December.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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