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

Former media pundit Eric Zemmour, who plans to run for president in April, has been fined for his 2020 remarks about young immigrants.

A Paris court imposed a €10,000 fine to far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour on Monday, January 17, for comments he made in 2020 about young immigrants, which the court found amounted to hate speech.

During his interview with the news broadcaster CNews in 2020, Zemmour said young unaccompanied migrants had „no reason being here; they are thieves, they are killers, they are rapists, that’s all they do, they should be sent back,” adding that „these people cost us money.”

According to the court ruling, these comments constitute incitement to hatred or violence on the basis of ethnic, national, racial or religious origin. Zemmour did not attend his trial at court, however, he denounced the court ruling in his statement, claiming that it was “an attempt to intimidate [him]”, excoriating the sentence by calling it „the condemnation of a free spirit by a judicial system that has been overrun by ideologues.” According to his lawyer, Zemmour believes the verdict was politically motivated, and he might appeal against it.

Zemmour already has two hate speech convictions, one from 2010 for incitement of racial hatred against Black and Arab people, and one from 2016 for incitement of religious hatred targeting Islam. He was tried on several other occasions, yet he was acquitted. He will also go on appeal trial on Thursday, January 20, for „contesting crimes against humanity”. The charges stem from a 2019 television debate, during which he claimed that Marshal Philippe Petain, Chief of State of the Vichy Government collaborating with Nazi Germany during World War II, saved France’s Jews from the Holocaust by sacrificing foreign Jews. Although he was acquitted for the same charge in 2021, prosecutors will cite similar remarks from him to back their case and overturn the acquittal.

In recent years, Zemmour has gathered a large and enthusiastic audience with his anti-Islam and anti-immigration rhetoric, becoming a major competitor of the more established right-wing politician Marine Le Pen, who is also running against President Emmanuel Macron in the 2022 April elections.