Fouad Belkacem's lawyer, John Maes, arrives at the main courthouse in Antwerp, Belgium on Monday, September 29, 2014.
Fouad Belkacem's lawyer, John Maes, arrives at the main courthouse in Antwerp, Belgium on Monday, September 29, 2014.

Europe's top human rights court ruled on Thursday that online videos considered by a Belgian court to be extremist hate speech were not protected under free-speech provisions.

Fouad Belkacem, a Belgian national is currently imprisoned for his activities as the head of Sharia4Belgium, an organisation banned for recruiting foreign fighters to participate in militant activities in the Middle East.

The European Court of Human Rights evaluated Belkacem's argument that his remarks in a series of videos on online platform YouTube fell within his freedoms of expression and religion and were not meant to incite violence.

In the videos, Belkacem had called on viewers to "overpower non-Muslims, teach them a lesson and fight them," content the Court called "markedly hateful" and "vehement." He had also called for the violent establishment of Sharia law.

The ECHR upheld the 2013 decision of Belgium's top court, which found that, far from simply expressing his views, Belkacem had incited others to discriminate on the basis of faith and to commit violence against non-Muslims.

Belgium continues to grapple with a comparatively high number of nationals who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join militant groups.

Stemming the tide

As more cases of online radicalisation and recruitment of European citizens emerge, the EU expects technology and social media companies to stem the tide.

In June, EU heads of state called for the industry to step up its efforts to police its own platforms.

Days later, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft responded with the announcement of a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, planning to research counter-speech possibilities, and share technical solutions in order to remove content faster.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies