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French MP forced to quit after Hitler Roma rant

The French MP who allegedly made shocking remarks that "maybe Hitler did not kill enough Gypsies" has been forced to resign from his party. Gilles Bourdouleix's comment is also the subject of a criminal probe by French authorities.

French MP forced to quit after Hitler Roma rant
Gilles Bourdouleix and the field where he is alleged to have made the remarks that have landed him in hot water. Photo: Screen grabs YouTube

A French lawmaker who was allegedly recorded saying that maybe Hitler "did not kill enough" Roma (also known as Gypsies) has resigned from his party, just days after investigators opened a criminal probe into his comment.

The centrist Union of Democrats and Independents said Gilles Bourdouleix had resigned in a letter sent to the party headquarters on Wednesday, hours before executive committee members were due to meet to discuss his fate.

Bourdouleix reportedly muttered the remark on Sunday as he confronted members of a travelling community who had illegally set up camp in the western town of Cholet, where he is mayor.

According to a recording posted on the site of regional daily Courrier de l'Ouest, he is heard saying "maybe Hitler did not kill enough," after the travellers, who were not from the Roma community themselves – had reportedly given him the Nazi salute.

His comment sparked huge outrage, with Interior Minister Manuel Valls calling for the lawmaker to be "severely punished" for the comments.

Yves Gambert, a local prosecutor, said his office had opened a preliminary investigation into the remarks on charges of "defending crimes against humanity".

Bourdouleix faces up to five years in prison and a €45,000 ($60,000) fine if convicted on the charge.

Prosecutors have also ordered that the recording of the remark be analysed to see if it was altered. 

Bourdouleix has said his comments were taken out of context and alleged the recording was tampered with.

The lawmaker has made controversial remarks about Roma in the past, including in November 2010, when he threatened to drive a truck through one of their caravan camps, and last November, when he said France was facing a "new invasion" from the community.

Confrontations between French authorities and Roma erupt frequently.

France has a policy of systematically dismantling illegal camps and repatriating Roma of Bulgarian and Romanian nationality – a policy whose legality has been questioned by the European Union, the United Nations' human rights arm and other watchdogs.

The Roma, a nomadic people whose ancestors left India centuries ago, have long suffered from discrimination and are frequently accused of carrying out petty crimes.

They were killed in their hundreds of thousands by the Nazis during the Second World War, alongside Jews and homosexuals.

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ROMA

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours

Ethnic Roma leaders called for round-the-clock police protection on Wednesday after a series of vigilante attacks in Paris sparked by false reports of attempted kidnappings.

Roma in France seek protection after attacks sparked by fake child snatching rumours
Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the abduction claims. Photo: AFP

Police arrested 20 people following attacks on Monday night on Roma people in suburbs northeast of Paris following false rumours spread on messaging apps and social media warning of abductions.

“We are calling today on the interior ministry… for immediate protection by way of round-the-clock police presence,” Anina Ciucin, a lawyer and spokesperson for The Voice of Roma group told RMC radio.

She said the reports were “a revival of the medieval stereotype” of Roma in which “gypsies are likened to thieves and child-catchers.”

The attacks appeared to have been sparked by the re-emergence of a long-standing online hoax that has circulated in France for years in which people warn of a white van being used in attempted kidnappings of young women or children.

Police have renewed their calls on Twitter not to relay the claims and have confirmed that there have been no reports of kidnappings in the area.

A Roma camp in 2017 built on an abandoned railway line in northern Paris. Photo: AFP

Government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux termed the attacks “unacceptable”, adding that this showed “the absolute need to fight 'fake news'”.

“Spreading such rumours in a highly organised and viral way on social media results in violence (and) the stigmatisation of a community,” he said, calling the process “detestable”.

READ ALSO: Paris: Fake rumours of 'white-van' child-snatchers spark attacks on Roma people

In one attack on Monday night in the suburb of Bobigny, some 50 people armed with sticks and knives set upon Roma living in a nearby slum, setting fire to their parked vans.

“Since then we're constantly scared,” said Georghe Marcus, one of around 150 Roma from Romania, Serbia and Moldova who live in wasteland next to a canal.

“We're not sleeping because we're keeping guard all night.”

Roma people were also chased in the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois and had to seek refuge in a supermarket to escape violence, according to Ciucin and judicial sources who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

 Tensions

On March 16, a gang of around 20 young people attacked two people in a white van in the Paris suburb of Colombes, leaving both with light injuries, police said.

Many rumours appear to have been spread on the Snapchat messaging service, as well as on Facebook where posts from people claiming their children or family members had been approached by strangers or abducted have been widely shared.

In December, police in the town of Versailles, west of Paris, issued a warning about abduction rumours carried online.

Police reminded social media users that under French law spreading a false rumour could be punished with fines of 45,000 to 135,000 euros.

Tens of thousands of Roma people have lived in France for centuries, but a fresh influx of some 20,000 people, mainly from Romania and Bulgaria, since the 1980s has led to the creation of new slums and increased tensions, according to a 2017 study by the government-sponsored National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Successive French governments have sought to dismantle the slums and repatriate recently arrived Roma who, while allowed to travel freely in Europe, are not eligible to apply for jobs in France unless they meet certain qualifications.

Between 10 and 12 million Roma people, also known as Roms, live in Europe, of whom six million are within European Union borders, according to the Council of Europe human rights group.

 
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