By SYLVIE CORBET, The Associated Press
PARIS (AP) — A far-right TV pundit who is expected to run for the French presidency goes on trial Wednesday for allegedly inciting racial hatred with his comments on unaccompanied migrant children.
Eric Zemmour, who has two prior hate speech convictions, is being tried on charges of “public insult” and “incitement to hatred or violence” against a group of people due to their ethnic, national, racial or religious origin.
The essayist and commentator on former political talk shows is widely expected to soon announce his candidacy in France’s April presidential election. Adopting an attitude like former former U.S. President Donald Trump’s, Zemmour is finding fervent audiences for his anti-Islam, anti-immigration invective in the early stages of the race.
Zemmour previously was convicted of incitement to racial hatred after justifying discrimination against Black and Arab people in 2010, and of incitement to religious hatred for anti-Islam comments in 2016. He was respectively sentenced to pays court costs and a 5,000-euro ($5,660) fine.
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The trial opening Wednesday focus on September 2020 comments he made on French news broadcaster CNews about children who migrate to France without parents or guardians. If found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to one year in prison and a 45,000-euro ($51,000) fine.
“They’re thieves, they’re murderers, they’re rapists, that’s all they are. We must send them back,” Zemmour said.
“These people cost us money and in addition, they are, most of them, criminals, thieves, et cetera, coming from Morocco, Pakistan and Chechenia,” he said.
Zemmour was not expected to attend Wednesday’s court session, his lawyer said. The verdict is expected to be delivered at a later date.
Civil plaintiffs in the case include several local councils representing “departements,” the administrative divisions in charge of handling child care.
“We refuse for these comments to be trivialized and to target foreign non-accompanied minors who come to seek protection in France, as well as all those who work to help them best,” the departmental council of Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, said.
Anti-racism groups that filed a formal complaint, including SOS Racisme, the Human Rights League and the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism, also are participating as civil plaintiffs.
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