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HOMOPHOBIA

Five held in France over fatal skinhead attack

French authorities detained five people late Friday in connection with the death of a leftist student activist following a skinhead attack that sent shock waves across the country.

Five held in France over fatal skinhead attack
Photo: Jacques Demarthon/AFP

The five suspects, aged between 19 and 32 and including one woman, were due to appear before a judge on Saturday.

Earlier Friday French Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed to crack down on far-right groups after 18-year-old Clement Meric, a student at the country's prestigious Sciences-Po university, died following a fight with skinheads in Paris.

His death on Thursday, the day after the incident, brought  condemnation across the political spectrum and prompted thousands of people out onto the streets  in Paris and other major cities in protest.

As well as the five suspects held, three more were picked up and later released on Friday.

According to a police source, several of the suspects are known to have links to far-right groups.

The fatal fight occurred on Wednesday near the city's central Saint-Lazare railway station. Meric, described as a model student, was left brain dead.

The man suspected of having dealt the fatal blow said he did not intend to kill, a police source said. The alleged attacker, who is in his 20s, is a known skinhead.

The tough-talking Socialist Valls pledged a "merciless" crackdown on far-right groups, while admitting it could not be accomplished overnight.

When asked if such groups would be dissolved, he said on RMC radio: "We will do it without doubt, but it will take a little time, lots of determination."

"Sadly such movements are resurging," he said, citing groups of "racists, anti-Semites and homophobes".

On Thursday evening, more than 15,000 people took part in marches in honour of Meric in Paris and other cities around the country, including his hometown of Brest.

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FOOTBALL

‘Not football’s job’ to combat homophobia: French football chief

The head of French football has pulled away from a hardline stance against homophobic chanting and banners in stadiums on Friday, saying that "too many matches" have been stopped due to anti-gay abuse.

'Not football's job' to combat homophobia: French football chief
Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Noel Le Graet, president of the French Football Federation (FFF), said that the FFF would not instruct referees to stop matches except in cases when a “whole stadium” was guilty of homophobic chanting.

“I think we're stopping too many matches! That makes certain government ministers happy, but it bothers me. Football can't be taken hostage by vulgarity,” said Le Graet in an interview with newspaper Ouest-France.

Several matches have been temporarily halted in France this season after the French football League (LFP) introduced over the summer plans to tackle fan homophobia during matches, including allowing referees to stop games.

“Matches have been stopped when they shouldn't have been,” Le Graet continued.

“We will stop them if there is consistent homophobic abuse from the whole ground, but if among 30,000 people there are 2,000 imbeciles I don't see why the other 28,000 should be punished.”

Le Graet referred to France's sports minister Roxana Maracineanu, who in April launched the appeal for matches to be stopped in the event of homophobic abuse, and equalities minister Marlene Schiappa.

Schiappa publicly praised referee Clement Turpin after he stopped Marseille's 2-1 win at Nice for over 10 minutes last month following sustained abusive chanting and banners from home fans, but Le Graet insisted that it wasn't football's job to combat homophobia.

Paris Saint-Germain's match at Metz two days later was also briefly halted for a banner unfurled by the hosts' supporters asking the French league (LFP) to allow them to aim homophobic chants at PSG.

“Did football invent homophobia? You can be a know-it-all when you have got much to say. But there are more important political issues,” he said.

“This crisis will resolve itself. We will work with club presidents, people who don't stick their oar in every morning, who don't want to just look good in front of the television cameras.”

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