Belgium's top court gives go-ahead for controversial Right-wing conference

Belgium's top court gives go-ahead for controversial Right-wing conference

Belgium’s top court issued an emergency order to allow a conference of European Right-wingers to go ahead on Wednesday after police tried to shut it down.

Nigel Farage was speaking at the National Conservatism conference when the police marched in to the venue on Tuesday, announcing that a local mayor had ordered its closure on public safety grounds.

The dramatic intervention provoked a storm of protest from Right-wing figureheads attending the conference including Mr Farage and Suella Braverman, but also from others such as 10 Downing Street and Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo, who warned the ban contravened Belgium’s constitutional right to free speech.

Groups campaigning for free speech including ADF International successfully petitioned the Conseil d’État, Belgium’s highest administrative court, to intervene.

“NatCon Brussels 2 will be free to meet today for its second day of programming without further interference from state authorities, the Conseil d’État, the highest court in Belgium relating to issues of public administration, has ruled,” National Conservatism tweeted. “Thank you @ADFIntl!”

ADF International’s executive director, Paul Coleman, said: “While common sense and justice have prevailed, what happened yesterday is a dark mark on European democracy. No official should have the power to shut down free and peaceful assembly merely because he disagrees with what is being said.

“How can Brussels claim to be the heart of Europe if its officials only allow one side of the European conversation to be heard?”

The Left-wing local mayor, Emir Kir, defended his actions after the Conseil d’Etat’s ruling, having declared on Tuesday that he would not allow the “far right” to hold sway in the city.

“My lack of sympathy for those who preach hatred is assumed but it is the maintenance of public order which motivated the ban,” he tweeted.

“We are in a state of law. Justice has ruled, the event goes ahead today,” he said, insisting he would remain “vigilant” on Wednesday, when Hungary’s controversial leader Viktor Orban is due to attend the event.

Mr Farage had denounced the action as akin to the “old Soviet Union” while Ms Braverman, the former Home Secretary, condemned the “thought police” in Belgium.

A Number 10 spokeswoman said on Tuesday afternoon that the reports then coming out of Brussels were “extremely disturbing”.

“The Prime Minister is a strong supporter and advocator for free speech and he believes that should be fundamental to any democracy,” she said.

“Speaking more broadly to the principle of such events, he is very clear that cancelling events or preventing attendance and no-platforming speakers is damaging to free speech and to democracy as a result.”