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CRIME

French court fines seven over anti-Semitic abuse of Miss France contestant

A French court has fined seven people for a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse on social media aimed at the runner-up of the latest Miss France contest.

Twitter is the subject of a legal case in France
A case has also been brought against Twitter for being too slow to remove the messages. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

April Benayoum, who competed for the Miss France title in December, became the subject of hate messages after saying at the event that her father is of Israeli origin.

The anti-Semitic messages were posted mainly on Twitter and drew condemnation from politicians and associations.

On Wednesday, a Paris court ordered seven defendants, four women and three men, to each pay fines ranging from €300 to €800.

An eighth suspect was acquitted, with the court finding that his tweet did not target Benayoum directly.

During the trial, the suspects all admitted to publishing the messages, but denied they were anti-Semitic, with some arguing they were making a political statement defending the cause of the Palestinians.

But the court found that the posts expressed “a rejection of a person because of their origins” or “because of their presumed religion” and that they targeted Benayoum directly.

The seven were also told to pay €1 in damages to the contestant and to several associations against racism and anti-Semitism that had joined the plaintiffs.

Four of them were also told to attend a two-day civics class having, according to the court, not fully grasped the seriousness of their actions.

While calling the penalties “light”, Jean-Louis Lagarde, a lawyer for the MRAP anti-racism association, said they were still “educational”.

The judgment showed that “you can’t hide behind the internet, or behind Twitter”, he said.

Benayoum’s lawyer Jean Veil said he blamed Twitter itself because the messaging platform had allowed the offensive tweets to remain visible for several days.

“My client believes that Twitter’s negligence is to blame in this case,” Veil said, adding that a separate case had been brought against the platform.

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PARIS

Paris police warn tourists about ‘petition’ scam

Paris police have issued a warning to tourists to beware of scams targeting visitors that involve false petitions and donation drives.

Paris police warn tourists about 'petition' scam

The police préfecture in Paris has released an announcement warning tourists about a scam that might be used to target them especially. 

The scam involves young boys and girls asking people to sign their petitions and requesting that they give a donation. In reality, many people – especially tourists or those unfamiliar with the local area – find themselves giving their money away to a false organisation.

In other cases, the petition acts as a distraction while pickpockets target the visitors.

Frequently, these scams involve the young people feigning deafness or the inability to speak, and pretending to collect funds on behalf of NGO for the hard of hearing. 

The scam is just one of a number that criminals use to prey on tourists, and visitors return to Paris after a two-year break, police are warning people to be vigilant – especially in tourist hotspots such as Montmartre and the Eiffel Tower area or in transport interchanges such as Gare du Nord.

READ MORE: Warning: 6 of the most common scams in France to watch out for

For more advice on how to stay safe in Paris as a tourist, you can read the police “Guide for Staying Safe in Paris

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