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France bans far-right groups after fatal brawl

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France bans far-right groups after fatal brawl
Far-right French militant Serge Ayoub (C, hand on chest), surrounded by members of JNR, which were banned by the government. Photo: Thomas Samson/AFP
16:56 CEST+02:00
Three French far-right groups implicated in the death of an anti-fascist activist during a brawl in Paris last month were officially banned by the government on Wednesday. The ban has been slammed as "an abuse of power" by the leader of one of the groups.

France officially banned three far-right groups on Wednesday whose sympathizers were implicated in the death last month of a left-wing student in a Paris street brawl.

Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the three groups -- the Third Way, the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth (JNR) and the "Desire to Dream" association -- had been officially dissolved.

Five people linked with the groups are facing charges over the June 6 death of 18-year-old Clement Meric, a student at the prestigious Sciences-Po university, who died after a clash in a busy Paris shopping area between skinheads and left-wing activists.

Serge Ayoub, the founder of the Third Way and JNR, told AFP the decision was an "abuse of power" and said he would appeal it before the Council of State, France's top administrative court.

Earlier this month The Local reported that the groups had disbanded of their own accord ahead of the expected government ban.

Ayoub, also known as ‘Batskin’ had said he was dissolving the group “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.

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

In the aftermath of the fatal attack on Méric in Paris French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault moved to quell the public anger by insisting all three groups would be banned.

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.

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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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