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Ex-FN candidate handed jail term for monkey slur

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Ex-FN candidate handed jail term for monkey slur
Former far-right National Front member Anne-Sophie Leclere (R) defended her comparison of black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira (C) with a monkey. Photo: France2/Screengrab
08:26 CEST+02:00
A French court on Tuesday came down hard on a former National Front local elections candidate, who had compared France's black Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey on Facebook. Anne-Sophie Leclère was given nine months behind bars.

Leclère was due to be a far-right National Front candidate in this year's local elections in the region of Ardennes, northern France, but was suspended by the party in October last year after comparing Taubira to a monkey on Facebook.

On Tuesday a French court in the overseas territory of Cayenne, French Guyana, slapped a nine month prison sentence on Leclère as well as a €5,000 fine.

It also slapped the FN with a 30,000-euro fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana's Walwari political party founded by Taubira.

The court went well beyond the demands of prosecutors, who had asked for a four-month jail sentence, five years of ineligibility and a 5,000-euro fine.

Leclère, who was not present in the court, said on Wednesday that she would appeal the verdict.

In a statement, the FN also said it would appeal, denouncing the sentences as "appalling" and blasting the trial as a "trap" as the party was unable to find a lawyer in Cayenne to defend it.

The incident came to light when  France 2 television revealed a photo montage Leclere had posted on her Facebook page, showing a baby monkey, with a caption underneath reading “At 18 months”, alongside Taubira – who is black – with the caption “Now.”

'I'd prefer to see her swinging from a tree'

Leclere published the image on her Facebook page on August 31st last year, before deleted it on the advice of friends, according to France 2.

During a documentary entitled “The new faces of the National Front?”, Leclere was confronted with the image, but defended publishing it, repeatedly insisting Taubira was “une sauvage”, which can translate as "wild animal" or "savage".

“Honestly, she's a wild animal, coming on TV with that devil's smile,” said Leclère.

“I'd prefer to see her swinging from a tree than in government,” she added, denying that she or the photo were racist, claiming “I have friends who are black.”

Leclère, who will face a disciplinary hearing, defended herself on Friday afternoon, saying: "I did not make racist remarks even though my comments on television were clumsy."

She said the photo-montage was a "joke" and added: "The photo was posted on my Facebook page and I took it off a few days later. I was not the creator of this photograph.

"I have received several messages of support," she added.

The National Front condemned the “revolting” and “excessive” sentence handed out by the court and indicated that they would appeal.

“This must be the one of the harshest sentences handed out in long time for freedom of speech," the National Front said in a statement.

Joel Pied of Walwari said Tuesday's court decision was "historic and beneficial".

"A prominent institution of the Republic recognises that the National Front is punishable by law and that it's a racist party. We hope this decision will mark a milestone.

"The monkey slur was one of a series of subtle racist attacks on Taubira last year that the minister admitted had hurt her children.

Not long after Leclere's comments, far-right weekly newspaper Minute went on sale with a cover featuring a picture of Taubira and headlines which read: "Crafty as a monkey" and "Taubira gets her banana back."

In French, getting your banana back is roughly the equivalent of recovering the spring in your step.

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