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French farmer filmed in underpants confronting conservationists wins €10k in privacy claim

A French farmer who became an internet sensation after being pictured storming out of his house in his underpants brandishing a spade to ward off bird conservationists won €10,000 in damages from French television on Wednesday.

French farmer filmed in underpants confronting conservationists wins €10k in privacy claim
France Televisions was ruled to have invaded the farmer's privacy. Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

The picture of a furious Jean-Marc Dutouya, clad in only a blue T-shirt and briefs, taking on the bird enthusiasts who sneaked into his cornfield in the southwestern village of Audon inspired a host of memes.

Twitter users dubbed the November 2015 altercation #SlipGate (French for “#UnderpantsGate”) and super-imposed the picture of the angry farmer and hunting enthusiast over several famous images.

Among the mocked-up pictures were Dutouya brandishing his spade in front of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Another replaced the spade with a light sabre.

The confrontation was recorded by a TV crew accompanying journalist and birder Allain Bougrain-Dubourg and fellow members of the League of Bird Protection (LPO) on their mission to destroy traps laid to catch finches.

Despite being a protected species, the birds are still hunted in parts of France.

Dutouya’s mother, who was in her 80s, was shoved during the skirmish while the journalists had the tyres slashed on four vehicles.

Dutouya was fined €400 in 2018 for violence with a weapon.

He in turn sued France Televisions, the public broadcaster which filmed the incident, for violating his privacy.

A court in the southwestern town of Dax awarded him €10,000 euros in damages on Wednesday – a fraction of the €200,000 he sought.

Welcoming the ruling, Dutouya’s lawyer Frederic Dutin said: “Can a man who is at home in his garden be thrown to the wolves in any old fashion? The courts say no.”

The court also ordered France Televisions to pay his legal costs and to blur Dutouya’s image on the footage, Dutin said.

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POLITICS

French justice minister faces trial on conflict of interest charge

France's justice minister has been ordered to stand trial in a conflict of interest case that has embarrassed President Emmanuel Macron's government, his lawyers said on Monday.

French justice minister faces trial on conflict of interest charge

His lawyers said they had immediately lodged an appeal to block the move.

Eric Dupond-Moretti, a former star defence lawyer, was last year charged with misusing his position to settle scores with opponents from his legal career, becoming the first sitting French justice minister to be charged in a legal probe.

The accusations relate to administrative inquiries into three judges. The three had ordered police in 2014 to pore through the phone records of dozens of lawyers and magistrates, including Dupond-Moretti, as part of an investigation into former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The judiciary accused Dupond-Moretti of a witch-hunt.

He denied the allegations, saying he was merely acting on the recommendations of his staff to investigate possible mistakes by the magistrates who oversaw the seizures of the phone records.

The order to stand trial was issued by the investigation commission of the Law Court of the Republic in Paris (CJR), which hears cases of alleged wrongdoing by serving ministers.

But his lawyers, Christophe Ingrain and Remi Lorrain, said they had already appealed against the move.

“The order no longer exists,” they told reporters as they exited the CJR building.

Dupond-Moretti was not present.

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