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France

French MP faces legal action for Hitler Roma remark

media AFP PHOTO KENZO TRIBOUILLARD

Gilles Bourdouleix, the centrist French MP who reportedly muttered inflamatory remarks against travelling Romas, is now facing expulsion from his party and possible legal action by the state.

France's interior minister Manuel Valls has called for Bourdouleix to be "severely punished" after a journalist recorded him saying that "Hitler may not have killed enough Roma."

Bourdouleix, mayor of the western town of Cholet, is now claiming that the recording of his comments were tampered with.

Authorties in Maine-et-Loire said the case has already been referred to public prosecutors who will examine whether his comments constitute a "defence of crimes against humanity."

"These comments are a defence of crimes committed in the Second World War, a defence of Nazism and coming from a mayor, from a member of parliament, it's completely intolerable," said Valls speaking on TV channel i-TELE.

Rights groups have spoken out recently against intensifying tension in France over semi-nomadic Roma groups after a string of right-wing politicians have made incendiary comments over illegal camps. 

Jacques Montacié, the General Secretery of the Human Rights League:

"The reactions we’ve had from the government, MPs and ordinary citizens are perfectly understandable because those kinds of words are unacceptable. Mister Bourdouleix will have to answer to a complaint made by the Human Rights League," said Jacques Montacié to RFI. "Other complaints have also been filed including charges of glorifying crimes against humanity."

This offence carries a maxium penalty of five years in jail and a 4,000 euro fine. Montacié said it's unlikely Bourdouleix would receive such a heavy sentence if found guilty. 

This type of speech is common by politicians and Montacié says speeches by high profile politicians such as Nicholas Sarkozy legitimised such negative portrayals of France's travelling communities.

And with upcoming local elections, politicians are playing into the extreme right platfom and using frustrations over illegal Roma camps as a go-to rallying point.

"It’s because the Travellers are an easy target. They are a scapegoat," said Montacié. "The right wing party is responsible for maintaining this toxic atmosphere."

 

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