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French far-right groups disband ahead of ban

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French far-right groups disband ahead of ban
Far-right French militant Serge Ayoub (C, hand on chest), surrounded by members of JNR, which dissolved itself on June 25th. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP
09:39 CEST+02:00
Two French far-right militant groups announced on Tuesday they were voluntarily disbanding after the French government had vowed to ban them. Supporters of the groups were implicated in the recent killing of anti-fascist activist Clément Méric.

Serge Ayoub, also known as ‘Batskin’, leader of the far-right nationalist militant group Troisième Voie (Third Way) announced on Tuesday that he had formally disbanded his organization.

Claiming that “the government has no reason to break us up,” Ayoub added that he himself had dissolved the group, which was founded by neo-fascists and skinheads in 1985, “so as not to be disbanded by others.”

For his part, Alexandre Gabriac, leader of the Jeunesses Nationalistes Revolutionnaires (Revolutionary Nationalist Youth, JNR), said he too was disbanding the small group, whose members were considered to be the more combative “forces of order”, providing protection for Troisième Voie.

Regional daily Le Dauphiné Liberé reported this week that Gabriac had received a “procedure for dissolution” letter from French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, giving JNR ten days to justify their continued existence – an instruction the regional councillor in Grenoble decided against following.

He vowed, however, to “continue to act” and said the group’s dissolution would not “stop nationalism from expressing itself.”

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced a fortnight ago that three right-wing extremist groups would be broken up by July, after sympathisers from Troisième Voie were implicated in the fatal attack on 18-year-old anti-fascist activist Clément Méric in Paris on June 5th.

Along with Third Way and JNR, the third group targeted by the French government is L’Oeuvre Française, a far-right anti-semitic organization founded in the late 1960s and currently led by Yvan Benedetti, who is a regional councillor, in Lyon.

Both Gabriac and Benedetti were banned from Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front party in 2011.

OPINION: BANNING FRENCH FAR-RIGHT MILITANTS - COULD IT WORK?

Meric was killed after an angry exchange of words between left-wing activists and right-wing skinheads when they met by chance at a private clothing sale in an apartment on Rue Caumartin in the 9th arrondissement of Paris on June 5th.

As the confrontation escalated, Meric was punched unconscious. He was pronounced brain dead in hospital and died the following day. It emerged this week that the fight had been caught on CCTV.

The man who is suspected of delivering the fatal punch is Esteban Morillo, aged in his 20s, who was arrested in the aftermath of the fight along with four other far-right radicals, including a 32-year-old woman.

Morillo is likely to face manslaughter charges after police sources say he had admitted throwing a punch but insists he did not mean to kill the student.

Despite consistent denials from Ayoub and Gabriac that their groups were responsible or involved in Meric’s death, Morillo has been revealed to be a JNR and Troisième Voie sympathiser, and French Interior Minister Manuel Valls vowed he would be “merciless” in cracking down on the groups.

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