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French presidential contender convicted, fined for hate speech

by The Associated Press | January 18, 2022 at 3:29 a.m.
Lawyer of far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour, Olivier Pardo, answers media at the Paris courthouse, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour, who has two prior hate speech convictions, went on trial in November on charges of "public insult" and "incitement to hatred or violence" against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious origin. The prosecutor requested a 10,000-euro (more than $11,000) fine against him. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

PARIS -- French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children in 2020.

A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of more than $11,000 and several thousand more in damages to anti-racism groups. He said he will appeal.

"I'm one more time the victim of a political justice," Zemmour told reporters, adding, "I absolutely do not regret" the comments.

Zemmour, who has two previous hate speech convictions, went on trial in November on charges of "public insult" and "incitement to hatred or violence" against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious origin.

Samuel Thomas, president of Homes of Friends, a network of anti-racism associations, said the sentence is "very light."

"We had hoped for him to be deprived of civic rights," Thomas said. "So Eric Zemmour will be able to continue his political career."

He added: "When you're inciting racial hatred, you're also responsible for crimes that are committed by far-right thugs."

Zemmour, a 63-year-old former TV pundit who is running in France's April presidential election, is drawing audiences with his anti-Islam, anti-immigration invective. He is considered among the major challengers to centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who polls indicate is the front-runner.

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

The case focused on 2020 comments he made on French broadcaster CNews about children who migrate to France without parents or guardians, calling them thieves, murderers and rapists who cost the country money.

Zemmour wasn't in court for his trial or the verdict. In a statement in November, he denounced "an attempt to intimidate" by prosecutors and anti-racist groups. He maintained his comments and said political debate doesn't take place in courts.

The presidential candidate also has an appeals trial Thursday on a charge of contesting crimes against humanity -- which is illegal in France -- for arguing in a 2019 television debate that Marshal Philippe Petain, head of Vichy's collaborationist government during World War II, saved France's Jews from the Holocaust.

A court acquitted him last year, saying Zemmour's comments negated Petain's role in the extermination, but that Zemmour had spoken in the heat of the moment.

Zemmour has repeated similar comments in recent months and lawyers contesting his acquittal plan to cite that point as evidence on appeal.

He 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 sentenced to pay court costs and a $5,660 fine.

Information for this article was contributed by Nicolas Garriga of The Associated Press.

  photo  Lawyer Arie Alimi, representing the Human Rights League, answers reporters at the Paris courthouse, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour, who has two prior hate speech convictions, went on trial in November on charges of "public insult" and "incitement to hatred or violence" against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious origin. The prosecutor requested a 10,000-euro (more than $11,000) fine against him. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 
  photo  Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gives a press conference at the Foreign Press Association headquarters, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 
  photo  Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour arrives to give a press conference at the Foreign Press Association headquarters, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 
  photo  Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gives a press conference at the Foreign Press Association headquarters, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 
  photo  Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour answers reporters prior to give a press conference at the Foreign Press Association headquarters, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 
  photo  Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gives a press conference at the Foreign Press Association headquarters, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 
  photo  Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour answers reporters prior to give a press conference at the Foreign Press Association headquarters, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was convicted Monday of inciting racial hatred over 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (more than $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racism groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
 
 

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