No arrests after searches targeting far-right extremists in military

No arrests after searches targeting far-right extremists in military
Credit: Belga

No arrests were made following 11 searches in three military barracks and eight private homes of Belgian soldiers that were conducted as part of an investigation into far-right extremists, but computers and mobile phones were seized.

Investigators plan to determine whether the targets of the investigation are guilty of inciting hatred and violence against minorities, according to De Standaard.

Specifically, authorities are looking for potential “distribution of messages that may lead to incitement to commit crimes related to terrorist acts,” involving “people who go too far on social media” and “test the limits of freedom of expression” there.

The searches were conducted on Wednesday morning, and the investigation comes in the aftermath of the Jürgen Conings case, which involved a member of the Belgian military with far-right beliefs who took weapons from a barracks, made threats against public figures and went into hiding before eventually being found dead from an apparent suicide.

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Military sources told De Standaard that these investigations involve military intelligence service ADIV and State Security, and that the searches are following up on leads related indirectly to the Conings affair as “a first act.”

The investigation is said to focus on four French-speaking soldiers with extreme-right sympathies who were being monitored by military intelligence because of statements they made on social media.

At a certain point, ADIV saw enough reason to pass the case on to the public prosecutor's office.

The four were not arrested or detained, but the Ministry of Defence is temporarily keeping them at home while cyber specialists from the Ministry of Defence examine their mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

“We have become more sensitive to this because of the Jürgen Conings case,” a military source told De Standaard.

“Then we were too late, now we play it safe and intervene more quickly.”

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