French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour fined for hate speech

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour fined for hate speech
Political firebrand was fined €10,000 euros for calling child migrants ‘thieves, rapists and murderers’

French far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour has been fined €10,000 (£8,350) for inciting racial hatred by calling child migrants “thieves, rapists and murderers”.

The 63-year-old former political commentator was not present at the Paris criminal court on Monday as the verdict was delivered.

Judges said he risked a prison sentence if he failed to pay the fine. Mr Zemmour said he would appeal the ruling.

His lawyer Olivier Pardo said the presidential contender would not attend the court “in order to prevent the judicial compound from turning into a non-stop TV news studio”.

Mr Zemmour, who has two previous convictions on similar charges, is currently polling behind President Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Rally, as well as Valerie Pecresse, the Republicans’ candidate, for April’s election.

The court case centred on Mr Zemmour’s appearance on a live debate for the CNews TV channel in September 2020.

He told the programme there were too many unaccompanied child migrants from Muslim majority countries in France.

“All these young people are from an immigrant background. They have no place here,” Mr Zemmour said during the debate.

“They are thieves, they are murderers, they are rapists, that’s all they are – they must all be sent back, and they shouldn’t come in the first place.”

Complaints poured in, including from numerous local authorities in France who are charged with looking after child migrants.

Mr Zemmour has denied any wrongdoing and said he stands by his comments, while Mr Pardo argued that the trial had become politicised because of his client’s presidential ambitions. 

The far-right firebrand was first convicted of provoking racial hatred in February 2011, and was then found guilty of inciting religious hatred in June 2017.

Mr Zemmour has drawn fervent audiences with his tirades against Muslims, Black people, and anybody else from an immigrant background. He has also been accused of virulent antisemitism after denying – against historical evidence – that the French collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust.