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France’s Zemmour faces lawsuit over denial of homophobic Nazi crimes

Far-right French presidential candidate, Éric Zemmour, has found himself in hot water for playing down atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against gay people in France during WW2.

Far-right French presidential candidate, Éric Zemmour, has caused outrage once again.
Far-right French presidential candidate, Éric Zemmour, has caused outrage once again. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour is being targeted with legal action by gay rights groups, who say he denied that homosexuals were rounded up and deported during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II.

Six gay rights associations told AFP on Wednesday that their criminal complaint for “denial of crimes against humanity” stemmed from Zemmour’s campaign manifesto, “France has not said its final word,” published in September.

In it, Zemmour agreed with another politician who claimed that deportations of homosexuals to concentration camps were a “legend”.

Zemmour “distorted history to support his homophobic positions,” the associations alleged in their complaint.

People close to the candidate retorted that “it is not Zemmour’s words that are cited in the book,” and called the legal move a smear attempt ahead of the first round of voting in the presidential election on April 10.

“Pro-LGBT” groups feared the candidate’s stance against gay “propaganda in our schools,” his team added.

Meanwhile Zemmour’s lawyer Olivier Pardo said he had not yet seen the legal complaint.

Seen by AFP, the complaint from the gay rights groups says that “deportation of homosexuals during World War II is an established historical fact” acknowledged by past French leaders including President Jacques Chirac and confirmed by recent scholarship.

“In France, at least 500 men accused of homosexuality were arrested, of whom at least 200 were deported during the German occupation,” they said.

‘Remigration’

Zemmour, 63, has for his part cited past declarations from Jewish associations that deported homosexuals were actually targeted as members of other persecuted categories, like Jews or members of the anti-Nazi resistance.

The candidate has in the past escaped conviction for another complaint of denying crimes against humanity, after he said that Marshal Petain, head of the Nazi vassal state based in Vichy during World War II, had “saved” French Jews.

An appeals court is set to render a new judgement in that case after the presidential vote.

Also Wednesday, Zemmour presented an outline of his budget plans if he were elected, claiming that he could find 20 billion euros ($22 billion) of savings by removing state aid to foreigners from outside the EU.

But the authority responsible for such payouts has said that the total for Europeans and non-Europeans combined was less than half the figure in 2019.

Zemmour’s spending priorities would include defence, internal security, the legal system and health — though his calculations did not include plans announced this week for a “remigration ministry” that he vowed would deport a million people within five years.

The idea of “remigration” is borrowed from white nationalist thinking, in line with Zemmour’s belief in the conspiracy theory of a “great replacement” of white Europeans by immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.

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POLITICS

‘Affaire Mila’: Six convicted for harassing French teen over anti-Islam videos

A French court convicted six people on Tuesday for harassing a teen online over her anti-Islam videos in a case that sparked debate about free speech and the right to insult religions.

'Affaire Mila': Six convicted for harassing French teen over anti-Islam videos

The girl, known as Mila, was forced to change schools and accept police protection due to threats to her life after videos in which she insulted Islam went viral in January 2020 and November the same year.

The court handed sentences ranging from a three-month suspended prison term to four months with an electronic bracelet to the two men and four women, aged 19 to 39.

The six were ordered to pay damages of €3,000 ($3,200) each to Mila.

“Their conviction was necessary,” said Mila’s lawyer Richard Malka, but added that he felt no satisfaction at seeing them sentenced.

READ MORE: What is the ‘Affaire Mila’ and what does it say about France and Islam?

“My only satisfaction would be if Mila were able to lead a normal life… and that is not the case,” Malka said.

In the first viral video posted on Instagram in January 2020, Mila responded to personal abuse from a boy who she says insulted her about her sexuality “in the name of Allah”.

She launched into an expletive-laden rant against Islam along with other explicit comments about Allah deemed highly offensive to practising Muslims.

She published a second video with similar content in November of the same year, after a jihadist killing of French high-school teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown students controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Mila’s lawyer says she received over 100,000 extremely virulent messages in response to the videos, with one person writing that Mila deserved “to have her throat cut”, while others threatened sexual assault.

In July 2021, a French court convicted 11 people for harassment and handed suspended sentences, with some ordered to pay damages of 1,500 euros.

The case has received widespread public attention because it touches on hotly contested issues in France, from cyber harassment to the right to blaspheme, and attitudes to religious minorities.

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