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France

Eight questioned over French anti-fascist's death, far-right demo banned

media Left-wingers pay tribute to Clément Méric on Thursday evening Reuters/Charles Platiau

French police have detained eight people acter the death of anti-fascist activist Clément Méric on Wednesday. One of them, Esteban M, is believed to have hit the 18-year-old student with a knuckleduster, causing to fall and hit his head.

The eight, who are between 20 and 37 years old, all have far-right sympathies, according to police, and are close to the small group Troisième Voie (Third Way) and its armed wing, the Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionaires (JNR – Revolutionary Nationalist Youth).

Those who were not present at the time of the fight that led to Méric’s death were expected to be released on Friday, while Troisième Voie leaders were to be questioned on Friday afternoon.

Esteban M is a 20-year-old skinhead, who grew up in north-east France, reported to be already known to the police for possession of banned weapons and frequenting far-right circles.

Méric was a member of a far-left anti-fascist organisation and the clash is reported to have taken place after of his comrades called him to a private sale of Fred Perry clothes where they had started an argument with a group of skinheads.

The dispute continued in the street and ended with Méric being rushed to hospital, where he died.

About 15,000 people rallied in Paris and the rest of France to pay tribute to the young student who has become an anti-fascist martyr.

Authorities in the south-western city of Toulouse have banned a demonstration, planned for Saturday, by another far-right group, the Jeunesses Nationalistes because of a “serious risk to public order”.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls on Friday declared that some far-right groups would “doubtless” be banned, although he warned that the procedure might take some time.

Mainstream right-wing UMP leader Jean-François Copé called for a ban on groups of the far right and the far left.

Some on the left claim that the right-wing rhetoric used by some campaigners against the gay marriage law has created a poisonous atmosphere that led to Méric's death.

Influential politicians, community leaders and church leaders have used increasingly violent language, Aurélien Selle of gay-rights campaign Act-up says.

"These people have influenced other people who then feel like it’s OK to say the same things and to put these words into action," he feels. "There has been an increase in violence against gay people, against leftist people, gay bars, leftist members of parliament and this is unfortunately just another one.”

He insists that the JNR can be banned.

“Such a group can be barred, can be dissolved, if it is proven that they incite hatred or violence," he says. "If this group can be dissolved, then other groups can be targeted as well. Because this one looks like it’s responsible for someone’s death. But other groups have been proven to be responsible for other kinds of violence: Physical violence, violence against properties and buildings because of sexual orientation or political orientation.”

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