Far-right French presidential candidate convicted for 'inciting racial hatred'
Far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was convicted of hate speech for making racist comments about immigrants during a TV debate.
Zemmour was fined €10,000 for “inciting racial hatred” by a Paris court for referring to unaccompanied children that come to France as killers, thieves and rapists in the programme two years ago.
The journalist and author, who has previous convictions for hate speech and has made a series of incendiary remarks on immigration and Islam, will face 100 days in prison if he does not pay the fine.
Jérôme Karsenti, a lawyer for anti-racism group Maison des Potes, welcomed the verdict. “The court has sent a strong signal that should inform the public debate during the presidential campaign," he is quoted as saying in the Financial Times.
“Freedom of speech does not mean you can say whatever you want, and racism is not an opinion.”
Zemmour, who did not attend the court for the hearing, called the verdict “stupid and ideological” in a statement. He is expected to appeal the decision.
"They are thieves, they are killers"
The court case concerned remarks he made on a right-wing news programme two years ago about unaccompanied children who come to France.
“They’ve got no reason for being here, they are thieves, they are killers, they are rapists, that’s all they do, they should be sent back,” he said during the programme.
Zemmour, who comes from an Algerian and Jewish family, has another impending case pending where he played down the role of the French government in deporting Jews during the Holocaust.
In 2011, he was fined €10,000 euros for claiming that “most drug dealers are black and Arab” and in 2018, he was fined for comments about a Muslim “invasion” of France.
French voters go to the polls in April to pick their candidate for president.
Last year, opinion polls had Zemmour in second place but more recent surveys have him in fourth place, behind more established far-right candidates like Marine Le Pen