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France's Alain Soral gets jail sentence for Holocaust denial

media French anti-Semitic essayist Alain Soral received a one-year prison sentence for Holocaust denial on 15 April 2019. Reuters

A French court sentenced far-right essayist Alain Soral to a year in prison on Monday for Holocaust denial in relation to images and remarks posted on a website.

Soral, 60, was convicted for publishing on his website a litigious text written by his lawyer in regards to another case.

He was not present for the decision. The judge in the case issued a warrant for his arrest.

Soral, an associate of French comedian Dieudonné, has previous convictions, notably for incitement of racial hatred, and the court went beyond prosecutors’ requests for six months in prison.

His lawyer, Damien Viguier, received a 5,000-euro fine for complicity, due to the content of his conclusions. Prosecutors had asked for a 15,000-euro fine.

Both Soral and Viguier were also ordered to pay a symbolic one-euro fine reflecting damages as well as 1,500 euros in legal fees to four anti-racist groups.

“After 10 years of convictions for racist and anti-Semitic offenses, the justice system is finally taking the right measures against the Soral phenomenon,” said Stéphane Lilti, lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, the French Union of Jewish Students.

The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (Licra) hailed “the firmness of this decision” and called on web servers to close all of Soral’s websites.

Viguier’s own lawyer, Gérard Guillot, denounced “a scandal” in which “a French lawyer is convicted for defending a case”.

Multiple convictions over a contested image

The conviction concerns an image published on Soral’s website Egalité et Réconciliation (Equality and Reconciliation) in 2016 in which a fictional newspaper called “Chutzpah Hebdo” bears a caption reading “disoriented historians”.

Before a Star of David, a likeness of Charlie Chaplin surrounded by a shoe, a wig, a bar of soap and a lampshade asks “Holocaust, where are you?”

The image was a reference to a controversial cover of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo depicting a young man asking “Daddy, where are you?” surrounded by dismembered body parts, published in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels of 22 March 2016.

A court ruled the image on Soral’s site to be an instance of Holocaust denial and fined Soral 10,000 euros with the possibility of imprisonment in case of non-payment.

Monday’s conviction and sentence concerned a text by Viguier that Soral published on the same site in November 2017

In the text, Viguier says the shoes and wig were a “reference to memorial sites and sites of pilgrimage” that were “brought together to stir readers’ imaginations.”

Concerning the wig, Viguier wrote “haircuts occur in all places of concentration for reasons of hygiene,” and said claims that Nazis made soap from human fat and lampshades from human skin were “war propaganda”.

Viguier posted a message on Soral’s website saying they would both appeal the court’s decision.

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