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Far-right candidate found guilty of hate speech

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Far-right candidate found guilty of hate speech

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A Paris court has convicted far-right French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour of inciting racial hatred over comments he made in 2020 about unaccompanied migrant children

PARIS — Far-right French presidential candidate Éric Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of inciting racial hatred for 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children.

A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups.

Zemmour said he would appeal the decision.

“I am once again a victim of political justice,” Zemmour told reporters, adding “I absolutely do not regret” the remarks.

Zemmour, who has already been convicted of two hate speeches, was tried in November for “public insult” and “incitement to hatred or violence” against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious.

Samuel Thomas, president of Maisons des Potes (“Houses of Friends”), a network of associations against racism, said the sentence was “very light”.

“We had hoped that he would be disenfranchised,” Thomas said. “Thus Éric Zemmour will be able to pursue his political career.”

He added: “When you incite racial hatred, you are also responsible for crimes committed by far-right thugs.”

Zemmour, a 63-year-old former television pundit who is running in France’s April 10 presidential election, is attracting a fervent following with his anti-Islamic and anti-immigration invective. He is seen as one of the main challengers to centrist President Emmanuel Macron, considered the frontrunner, according to polls. Macron has yet to confirm that he will seek a second term.

The case against Zemmour centered on comments he made in September 2020 on French news channel CNews about children migrating to France without parents or guardians, calling them thieves, murderers and rapists who cost France money.

Zemmour was not present in court for his trial or the verdict. In a statement in November, he denounced “an attempt to intimidate (him)” by prosecutors and anti-racist groups. He stood by his words and said that political debate does not take place in the courts.

Zemmour also has an appeal trial on Thursday for challenging crimes against humanity – which is illegal in France – for arguing during a 2019 TV debate that Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of Vichy’s collaborationist government during the World War II, had saved the Jews of France from the Holocaust.

A court acquitted him last year, saying Zemmour’s comments denied Pétain’s role in the extermination, but explained he was not convicted because he spoke in the heat of the moment. ‘action.

Zemmour has repeated similar comments in recent months, and lawyers challenging his proposed acquittal to cite that point as evidence in the appeal trial.

Zemmour has previously been convicted of inciting racial hatred after justifying discrimination against blacks and Arabs in 2010, and of inciting religious hatred for anti-Islamic remarks in 2016. He was ordered to pay court costs and a fine of 5,000 euros ($5,660). .

He was also tried in other cases where he was acquitted.

Zemmour is a descendant of Berber Jews from Algeria. He was born in France in 1958 to parents who had come from the North African country, then a French colony, a few years earlier.

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AP journalist Nicolas Garriga in Paris contributed to the story.

Far-right candidate found guilty of hate speech

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