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France

Far-right ex-candidate appeals nine-month jail sentence for comparing French justice minister to ape

media Anne-Sophie Leclère Screengrab

A former far-right local council candidate says she will appeal against a nine-month prison sentence f or comparing French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to an ape. The Front National, which was fined in the same judgement, attacked it as “political”.

“It’s completely disproportionate,” declared Anne-Sophie Leclère in response to the sentence passed by a court in Cayenne, French Guiana. “I was very shocked to hear of this judgement. Criminals are found guilty and have to wear an ankle bracelet and I get locked away.”

Marine Le Pen’s far-right Front National (FN), which was fined 30,000 euros, declared the court’s decision “political” and “grotesquely disproportionate” and said it would appeal.

A TV documentary last October revealed that Leclère had compared Taubira to an ape on her Facebook page, leading the FN to sack Leclère as a candidate in this year’s local council electiuonas and later expel her.

The case was one of several racial insults targeting Taubira that came to light following the campaign against the legalisation of gay marriage, which she guided through parliament, and proved an embarrassment to Le Pen, who is trying to clean up the party’s image.

The Guianese political party Walwari, which Taubira helped found in 1992, brought a case against Leclère for racist insults and incitement to racial hatred and named the Front National as a co-defendant.

Leclère did not attend court, claiming that she could not afford the plane ticket to Cayenne and that she could not find a lawyer to defend her.

The FN, which also claimed to be unable to find a lawyer ready to defend it in Cayenne, claimed that “the had of Christiane Taubira” was behind the sentences.

The court went further than the prosecutor’s call for a four-month prison term and sentences Leclère to nine months in jail, five year’s ineligibility to stand in elections and a 50,000-euro fine, as well as a 30,000-euro fine for the FN.

Taubira has refused to comment, stating simply that the judgement was consistent with the penal code.

Leclère faces two more prosecutions in mainland France, one based on a complaint laid by the black rights group Cran, the other by the public prosecutor, according to her lawyer in Paris, Jacques Erb.

Even if her appeal fails, Leclère can negotiate how to serve her sentence with a magistrate and, according to a 2009 law, a sentence of less than two years may be served by being electronically tagged with a bracelet or other alternatives to incarceration.
 

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