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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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CRIME

French tax agent ‘kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit’

A French tax inspector was kidnapped and killed, reportedly while carrying out a tax audit in a village in northern France on Monday evening.

French tax agent 'kidnapped and killed while conducting an audit'

The 43-year-old tax agent died on Monday night in northern France, with local media Actu Pas-de-Calais reporting that he was killed by the man whom he was auditing, who later died by suicide.

Emergency services were called to the small village of Bullecourt in the Pas-de-Calais département of northern France at around 8pm. Upon arriving they found two men dead and a woman, reported to be another employee of the tax office, tied up.

She was not believed to be seriously injured but was treated for shock. 

The public prosecutor released a statement saying that both tax agents “were carrying out an at-home audit to check the accounts” of the local man reported to be a brocanteur (antique dealer), who then “kidnapped them and tied them up.” 

“The accused then killed himself with a firearm,” according to the prosecutor’s office. 

The mayor of Bullecourt, a small village of 250 inhabitants, told AFP that he remembered the accused antique dealer as a “helpful” and “ordinary person” who had “integrated into the village.”

Gabriel Attal, the Public Accounts Minister, issued a statement on Monday evening expressing his condolences and saying that the tax agent “was simply doing his job” and that “today, he did not return.” The minister lamented that the agent was “killed while completing a tax audit.”

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