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Extremist who threatened Van Ranst arrested

Marc Van Ranst © Belga

Police have arrested a man known to be a right-wing extremist for threats aimed at virologist Marc Van Ranst.

Koen J., aged 50, was arrested at his home in Sint-Niklaas in East Flanders on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. According to an investigating magistrate in Dendermonde, he is suspected of negationism – denying the fact of the Holocaust – and issuing threats.

The threats allegedly were aimed at Marc Van Ranst, the prominent virologist at the forefront of the campaign against the coronavirus. Van Ranst and his family are still in protective custody at a safe house after his life was threatened by Jürgen Conings, the heavily armed military man who has been on the run more than a week ago.

According to De Morgen, it was the man’s own family and friends who raised the alarm on Tuesday, when he suddenly disappeared without notice.

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It is not known whether he has any link to Conings, although the distance would suggest it is unlikely. Far more likely is that he is simply one of many admirers, and something of a copy-cat.

For example, he was arrested in Brasschaat in the north of Antwerp province (where Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon happens to be mayor). His parents are buried there. One week earlier, Conings had laid his service medals on the tombstone of his parents in a cemetery in Peer in Limburg province.

In the meantime, J. is known to the authorities as a right-wing extremist, judging by his frequenting of right-wing groups and his traffic on social media, where he likes to call for organised rebellion against the authorities and to glorify weapons and extremist insignia.

Now the prosecutor’s office for East Flanders has announced that the suspect will be subject to psychiatric evaluation. He remains in custody.