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French far-right presidential hopeful Zemmour under fire over Bataclan tirade

Eric Zemmour came under fire on Sunday for delivering a blistering attack on ex-president François Hollande's migration policy during commemorations marking the November 2015 Paris attacks.

The Bataclan cafe and theatre in Paris
French pundit and presidential hopeful Eric Zemmour chose the anniversary of the 2015 Bataclan attacks to attack the then-president's migration policies. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Zemmour, an ultra-nationalist TV pundit who has made no secret of his desire to run for president in April’s election, made the remarks during a visit Saturday night to the Bataclan theatre in Paris, where 90 concertgoers were massacred during a series of coordinated attacks across the French capital on November 13th, 2015.

The attacks, which left 130 people dead in total, were carried out by a ten-man Islamic State (IS) cell, mostly French and Belgian nationals, some of whom had travelled to Syria to join IS and returned to France to carry out the attacks.

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Addressing reporters outside the Bataclan, 63-year-old Zemmour accused France’s then-Socialist president Hollande of “criminal” negligence for failing to detect those attackers who slipped into Europe among a huge influx of Syrian migrants.

“He knew there would be terrorists and did not protect the French and took the criminal decision to leave the borders open,” said Zemmour, who is polling strongly on an anti-Islam, anti-immigration platform, despite having yet to formally announce his candidacy.

The veteran former political journalist argued that even those attackers who had French nationality “would have been caught” if France, where jihadists had slaughtered a group of cartoonists 10 months earlier, had shut its borders.

Hollande, who was called to testify this week at the trial of 20 people charged over the bloodshed, including the sole surviving member of the IS cell behind the attacks, Salah Abdeslam, accused Zemmour of an “unsubstantiated, obscene and shameful” attack.

“It’s obscene to be in front of the Bataclan and to be talking about a war of civilisation,” Hollande told a Jewish community radio station, Radio J, referring to Zemmour’s characterisation of the attacks.

Survivors and relatives of the victims of the Paris attacks also denounced Zemmour for playing politics on the anniversary of the massacre.

Arthur Denouveaux, a survivor of the Bataclan attack who heads the Life for Paris victims association, accused Zemmour of acting like a “grave desecrator”.

“We are highly outraged by this political exploitation of terror victims,” he said in a statement shared on Twitter, pictured below.

Zemmour is vying with Rassemblement National (RN) leader Marine Le Pen for the leadership of France’s nationalist right.

Some polls show him overtaking her to become Macron’s top rival.

Others show Le Pen, 53, still the most likely to defeat candidates from the mainstream right and the left for a place in the second-round run-off against Macron – as she did in 2017.

All polls currently show 43-year-old Macron, who has yet to announce he is seeking re-election but is expected to do so, winning a second term – although the elections do not take place until April 2022.

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POLITICS

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

The final composition of the new French government was announced on Friday. A new investigation suggests that historic rape allegations against a newly appointed minister were ignored.

Newly appointed French Minister faces rape allegations

It didn’t take long for scandal to hit the France’s new government.

An investigation by Mediapart published the day after the final list of ministerial positions was announced revealed that two women have accused one of the appointees of rape. 

READ MORE Who’s who in France’s new government?

Damien Abad, the new Solidarity Minister denies the allegations and a police investigation into one allegation was dropped in 2017. But another could be about to open. 

Who is Damien Abad? 

Damien Abad is a 42-year-old son of a miner from Nimes in southern France who became the first handicapped MP to be elected in 2012. He has arthrogryposis, a rare condition that affects the joints.

Prior to his appointment as the Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Disabled People, he was the leader of the France’s right-wing Republicans party in the Assemblée nationale

What are the allegations? 

Two alleged victims, who didn’t know each other, told Mediapart that Abad raped them on separate occasions in 2010 and 2011.

The first woman described meeting Abad for dinner after having met him weeks earlier at a wedding. She said she blacked out after one glass of champagne and woke up in her underwear in a hotel bed with Abad the next morning fearing she had been drugged. 

A second woman who lodged a formal charge against Abad in 2017 said that he harassed her by text message for years. She eventually agreed to meet with him one evening. After initially consenting, she told him to stop – but her plea fell on deaf ears as Abad raped her. 

What does Abad have to say? 

The new minister denies the accusations.

“It is physically impossible for me to commit the acts described,” he told Mediapart – in reference to his disability. 

He admitted to sending “sometimes intimate” messages, but said he had “obviously never drugged anyone”. 

“I was able to have adventures, I stand by my claim that they were always consensual.”

Is he under investigation? 

The second alleged victim made a formal allegation against Abad in 2017. 

A subsequent investigation was dropped later that year after a “lack of sufficient evidence was gathered”.

Mediapart report that Abad’s entourage were not questioned by police and that the MP told investigators that he had no memory of the alleged crime. 

The first alleged victim flagged the abuse to the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics – an unofficial watchdog monitoring elected bodies – earlier this month. 

The Observatory has since brought the case to the state prosecutor, but it is unclear if another investigation will be launched.  

Who knew? 

The tone deaf appointment of Gérald Darmanin as Interior Minister in 2020 was controversial because at the time he was under investigation for rape. His nomination was met with street protests in Paris and elsewhere. Feminists accused (and continue to accuse) Emmanuel Macron of not taking sexual violence seriously. 

The investigation into Darmanin’s alleged crime has since been dropped.

Some will question whether the naming of Abad shows that lessons have not been learned. 

“Once again a minister  in the government of Emmanuel Macron accused of rape,” said Caroline De Haas, the founder of the #NousToutes feminist movement. 

The Observatory sent a message warning senior party figures in the Republicans and LREM about the allegations on Monday – prior to Abad’s nomination. 

France’s new Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne denied having any knowledge of the warning. 

“I am going to be very clear on all these questions of harassment and sexual violence, there will be no impunity,” she said during a visit to Calvados. 

“If there are new elements, if the courts are summoned, we will accept the consequences.” 

READ MORE Who is Élisabeth Borne, France’s new PM?

The Observatory meanwhile claims it has been ignored. 

“Despite our alerts, Damien Abad who is accused of rape has been named in government. Thoughts and support to the victims,” it tweeted

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