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25,000 Demonstrate Peacefully for Gaza in Paris.

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Picture from L’Humanité.

Pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of Paris once more on Wednesday to march against Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip, the first authorised demonstration since a July 13 rally ended in clashes.

There had been fears of further violence ahead of the march, particularly after ugly scenes at two banned demonstrations over the weekend that saw protesters hurl rocks at police, who responded with volleys of teargas.

More than 1,000 undercover and uniformed officers were deployed along the march route, carrying riot gear and teargas in case trouble broke out.

But the march passed largely without incident, as the protesters made their way from southern Paris towards Invalides in the centre of the capital.

Police said around 14,500 people attended the rally, while organisers put the figure at 25,000.

France 24.

There were hundreds of CGT stewards (‘service d’ordre’) present to prevent  trouble and any expression of anti-Semitic views.

Libération reported this comment,

A l’avant du cortège, des jeunes crient «Israël assassin, Hollande complice». Un membre de l’Association France-Palestine solidarité (AFPS), appelle à la mesure :«Nous sommes tous des enfants de Gaza. On ne doit pas instrumentaliser la cause palestinienne pour propager l’antisémitisme. On se bat contre une politique agressive. Pas contre un peuple tout entier.»

At the head of the march youths shouted, “Israel – Murderer, Hollande – Henchman”. A member of the Association for France-Palestinian Solidarity called for moderation, “we are the children of Gaza. We must not use the Palestinian cause to spread anti-Semitism. We are fighting against aggressive policies. Not against a whole people.”

The march was organised by the “ Collectif National pour une Paix Juste et Durable entre Israéliens et Palestiniens.”

This group demands:

Pour l’arrêt immédiat des bombardements sur Gaza – an Immediate end to the bombardment of Gaza.

- Pour l’arrêt de l’agression israélienne en Cisjordanie et à Jérusalem For an end to the Israel aggression in the West Bank  and in Jerusalem

- Pour la levée du blocus, illégal et criminel, de Gaza Lifting the illegal and criminal blockade of Gaza.

- Pour des sanctions immédiates contre Israël jusqu’au respect du droit international For immediate sanctions against Israel until it respects international law.

- Pour le soutien au peuple palestinien et au gouvernement d’entente nationale. Back the Palestinian people and for a national unity government.

La cause palestinienne n’a rien à voir avec l’extrême droite et n’accepte aucun soutien de leur part – the Palestinian cause has nothing to do with the far-right, and (we) will accept no support from that quarter.

Left groups, le NPA, le PCF, le Front de gauche, the Ligue des droits de l’homme, and the ‘altermondialiste’ Attac, backed the march. (1)

A decision whether to permit a planned demonstration on Saturday – organised by the same people who led the Barbès march marked by violent incidents the previous weekend – has yet to be reached (Libération).

 

(1) Full List: Agir Contre le Colonialisme Aujourd’hui (ACCA) – Alliance for Freedom and Dignity (AFD) – Alternative Libertaire (AL) – Américains contre la guerre (AAW) – Association des Travailleurs Maghrébins de France (ATMF) – Association des Tunisiens en France (ATF) – Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS) – Association Nationale des Elus Communistes et Républicains (ANECR) – Association pour la Taxation des Transactions financières et pour l’Action Citoyenne (ATTAC) – Association pour les Jumelages entre les camps de réfugiés Palestiniens et les villes Françaises (AJPF) – Association Républicaine des Anciens Combattants (ARAC) – Association Universitaire pour le Respect du Droit International en Palestine (AURDIP) – Campagne Civile Internationale pour la Protection du Peuple Palestinien (CCIPPP) – Cedetim / IPAM – Collectif des Musulmans de France (CMF) – Collectif Faty Koumba – Collectif interuniversitaire pour la coopération avec les Universités Palestiniennes (CICUP) – Collectif Judéo-Arabe et Citoyen pour la Palestine (CJACP) – Comité de Vigilance pour une Paix Réelle au Proche-Orient (CVPR PO) – Comité Justice et Paix en Palestine et au Proche-Orient du 5e arrt (CJPP5) Confédération Générale du Travail (CGT) – Confédération paysanne – Droit-Solidarité – Ensemble – Europe Ecologie les Verts (EELV) – Fédération des Tunisiens pour une Citoyenneté des deux Rives (FTCR) – Fédération Syndicale Unitaire (FSU) – Gauche Unitaire (GU) – Génération Palestine – La Courneuve-Palestine – le Mouvement de la Paix – les Alternatifs – les Femmes en noir – Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) – Ligue Internationale des Femmes pour la Paix et la Liberté, section française de la Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) (LIFPL) – Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l’Amitié entre les Peuples (MRAP) – Mouvement Jeunes Communistes de France (MJCF) – Organisation de Femmes Egalité – Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA)) – Parti Communiste Français (PCF) – Parti de Gauche (PG) – Participation et Spiritualité Musulmanes (PSM) – Une Autre Voix Juive (UAVJ) – Union des Travailleurs Immigrés Tunisiens (UTIT) – Union Générale des Etudiants de Palestine (GUPS-France) – Union Nationale des Etudiants de France (UNEF) – Union syndicale Solidaires

‘Trojan Horse’ in Birmingham: Scandal Worsens as Shahid Akmal Faces New Allegations.

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Shahid Akmal, “white women have the least amount of morals.”

The Birmingham Mail has just revealed another scandal behind the ‘Trojan Horse’ allegations,

Undercover report reveals Birmingham school chief claimed women are ‘emotionally weaker’ and that British people have ‘colonial blood’.

By Nick Sommerlad

One of the ringleaders of the Islamist plot to take over British schools is exposed today as a sexist, racist bigot.

School chief Shahid Akmal told an undercover reporter from Birmingham Mail sister paper the Mirror, that “white women have the least amount of morals”, white children were “lazy” and that British people have “colonial blood”.

Akmal claimed that women were “emotionally weaker” than men and that their role was to look after children and the home.

He defended jailing or exiling gays and adulterers under Sharia Law as a “moral position to hold”.

Until he was removed last week, Akmal was the chairman of governors at Nansen Primary School in Birmingham, where music was banned and inspectors found pupils were not sufficiently protected from radicalisation.

The hardliner revealed he has plans to set up a series of after-school tuition centres to instil “our morals and our values and our principles” in impressionable youngsters.

Over a series of meetings, Akmal made a string of extraordinary statements and defended Britons fighting in Syria and Iraq as “freedom fighters”.

In a defiant attack, Akmal claimed the Government wanted to keep Muslims “suppressed” so they are easier to control.

Asked if white children were lazy he said: “Exactly. Thank you very much. And they don’t want to accept that.” He insisted: “I tell you, our women are much, much better consciously in the heart than any white women.

“White women have the least amount of morals.”

He argued that girls should be taught skills like cooking and sewing while boys should be taught trades like construction and mechanics.

Akmal attacked women who became “high flying” politicians: “She has to sacrifice her family, she has to sacrifice her children, she has to sacrifice her husband, all in the name of equality. And there are so many marriages that have broken up because of this.”

He appeared to defend British Muslims joining rebels in Syria and Iraq, despite official warnings of a terrorism threat when they return to the UK.

He said: “The fact that he has gone there to fight, they say that he is supporting terrorists. Because they don’t believe in the freedom fight.”

The alleged Trojan Horse plotters had been attacked for “wanting the best for our children”, claimed Akmal. He said: “They basically don’t want the children to do any better because they will demand education, they will demand better qualifications, they will want to go to Oxford and Cambridge and that’s a white only place. Very few non-whites go there.

“They want to keep us suppressed. It’s easier to control. If you get education you get a mind. When you get a mind, you ask questions. They don’t like that.

This comes as the  Clarke report into Birmingham schools was formally presented.

Amongst its findings ITN highlights this,

Teachers at schools involved in the ‘Trojan Horse’ investigation allegedly claimed the murder of Lee Rigby was “some kind of staged event or hoax”, according to a government report.

The report’s author, retired counter-terrorism officer Peter Clarke, analysed the contents of a social media discussion between teachers at Park View School who called themselves ‘The Park View Brotherhood’.

The teachers allegedly joked about Lee Rigby’s death on the WhatsApp messaging service. Credit: Daniel Reinhardt/DPA/Press Association Images

Clarke’s report says the group of teachers exchanged “highly offensive comments about British service personnel” on the WhatsApp messaging service.

He also described the general contents of the teachers’ discussions as “grossly intolerant of beliefs and practices other than their own”.

School chiefs and parents ‘involved in promoting Islam’

Last updated Tue 22 Jul 2014

Governors, deputy and acting headteachers, trustees and parents were involved in a pattern of behaviour “moving between schools” in Birmingham, an inquiry into alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ schools has found.

In a 151-page report for Birmingham City Council, Ian Kershaw concluded: “The evidence shows individuals have been seeking to promote and encourage Islamic principles in the schools with which they are involved, by seeking to introduce Islamic collective worship, or raising objections to elements of the school curriculum that are viewed as anti-Islamic.”

Mr Kershaw’s report said the problems had been allowed to run “unchecked” due to what he branded “weaknesses in the system and poor oversight of governance” mainly by the city council, but also by Ofsted, the Education Funding Agency and the DfE.

In his report, Mr Clarke, who served as head of the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism unit, said he “neither specifically looked for, nor found, evidence of terrorism, radicalisation or violent extremism in the schools of concern in Birmingham”.

But he went on to say: “I found clear evidence that there are a number of people, associated with each other and in positions of influence in schools and governing bodies, who espouse, sympathise with or fail to challenge extremist views.”

The inquiry concluded: “There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.

It said witnesses had expressed three key concerns about the impact of the situation on pupils:

  • The first was that teachers feared that children are learning to be intolerant of difference and diversity.
  • Secondly, that although good academic results can be achieved by narrowing the curriculum, this means young people are not getting a broad education, and instead their horizons are narrowed.
  • Thirdly, that the evidence of young people being encouraged to “adopt an unquestioning attitude to a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam” raises real concerns about their vulnerability to radicalisation in the future.

Criticising the role of Birmingham city council, the report concluded the authority was “aware of the practices and behaviours that were subsequently outlined in the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter long before the letter surfaced”.

It goes on to say that the council has not supported headteachers faced with “aggressive and inappropriate behaviour”.

Mr Clarke also warned that the DfE had allowed Park View Educational Trust (PVET) – the trust at the centre of the allegations – to move from running a single school to being responsible for three too quickly, without systems in place for holding the new academies to account.

” There has been no evidence of direct radicalisation or violent extremism,” she said. “But there is a clear account in the report of people in positions of influence in these schools, with a restricted and narrow interpretation of their faith, who have not promoted fundamental British values and who have failed to challenge the extremist views of others.

“Individuals associated with PVET in particular have destabilised headteachers, sometimes leading to their resignation or removal. Particularly shocking is the evidence of the social media discussion of the Park View Brotherhood group whose actions betray a collective mind-set that can fairly be described as an intolerant Islamist approach which denies the validity of alternative beliefs.”

She said that it was “upsetting” that efforts to encourage more British Muslims to become school governors had been “damaged by the actions of a few” and urged parents to continue to come forward to serve on governing bodies.

A new education commissioner is to be appointed at Birmingham City Council to oversee action to address the criticisms of the authority in the Clarke and Kershaw reports.”

 MSN news.

Shiraz Socialist commented a few days ago,

So we now have a situation in which the two reports commissioned into ‘Trojan Horse’ have both concluded that there was a real issue of organised, ultra-reactionary Islamist influence in some Birmingham schools. The newspaper at the forefront of the campaign of denial that followed the allegations has now relented and faced reality. The leader of Birmingham City Council has acknowledged what happened and apologised. But will those on the left (in particular, but not only, the SWP), who took the Guardian ‘line’ now admit their mistake? More importantly, will the NUT leadership, instead of prevaricating on the issue, now take a clear stand in support of secular education?

One solution: secular education!

Boot Religious Authority out of Schools!

France: Pro-Palestinian Protests and anti-Semitism at Sarcelles, Defending the Right to Demonstrate.

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Defying  the Ban on pro-Palestinian marches in France, on Saturday,

About 6,000 mostly peaceful protesters assembled in the Barbès area of northern Paris in defiance of a government ban. When the march was blocked by police lines after only 500 metres, a minority of young protesters started to hurl stones, bottles and sticks at the riot police.

There is a range of accounts of the responsibility for the incidents that took place, see L’Humanité, and Libération and an important direct reportage in the same paper, here.

A leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) said, “«La solidarité avec les Palestiniens doit pouvoir s’exprimer à Paris», a expliqué samedi à l’AFP Sandra Demarcq, membre de la direction du NPA, qui juge l’interdiction «illégitime et scandaleuse». We should be able to express solidarity with the Palestinians, explained to AFP Sandra Demarq, part of the leadership of the NPA, who judged the ban “illegitimate and scandalous”. According to the reporter at around 15.40,

Soudain, des groupes extrêmement équipés et organisés ont commencé à fendre la foule pour monter au contact des CRS. Ils avançaient en ligne, le visage couvert. A l’évidence, ils n’avaient rien de militants venus défendre la cause palestinienne. Certains arboraient des tee-shirts du virage Auteuil, une tribune du Parc des Princes.

Suddenly, extremely well organised and kitted out groups pushed their way through the crowd towards the front row of the CRS (riot police).

They advanced en bloc, faces covered. From what could be gleaned they had nothing of the look of activists who’d come to defend the Palestinian cause. Some of them were wearing the colours of Auteuil, a supporters’ group named after a football stand at the Parc des Princes.

In Sarcelles on Sunday however  events took a clearly and illegitimate  anti-Semitic  turn,

France’s interior minister on Monday slammed “intolerable” acts of anti-Semitism after a rally against Israel’s Gaza offensive descended into violence pitting an angry pro-Palestinian crowd against local Jewish businesses.

Sunday’s demonstration in the north Paris suburb of Sarcelles was the third to deteriorate in a week, as shops were looted and riot police lobbed tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd.

The rally had been banned amid concern the Jewish community would be targeted after protesters last weekend tried to storm two synagogues in Paris.

“When you head for the synagogue, when you burn a corner shop because it is Jewish-owned, you are committing an anti-Semitic act,”Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters outside the Sarcelles synagogue.

In the Paris suburb sometimes nicknamed “little Jerusalem” for its large community of Sephardic Jews, the rally descended into chaos when dozens of youth – some masked – set fire to bins and lit firecrackers and smoke bombs.

Eighteen people were arrested after looters wrecked shops, including a kosher foodstore and a funeral home as protesters shouted: “Fuck Israel!”.

News 24.

The Independent says,

Riot police held back a mob of youths who tried to attacks two synagogues in the town of Sarcelles in the northern Paris suburbs.

A pro-Gaza demonstration in a town with a large Jewish population began peacefully but degenerated into attacks on Jewish and Chaldean businesses and four hours of running battles between youths and police. Several cars were burned. Three shops, including a Kosher grocery (1), were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.

The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneve said today: “When you menace synagogues and when you burn a grocery because it is  Jewish-owned, you are committing anti-semitic acts…  That is intolerable. Protest against Israel is legitimate. Nothing can justify such violence.”

…..

Roger Cuikerman, head of the French umbrella groups of Jewish organisations, CRIF, said there was a growing anxiety amongst French jews.

Protest against Israeli government actions was one thing, he said. Attacks on Jews for being Jews were “deeply disturbing”. “They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” he said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews’. They are attacking synagogues which are places of prayer.”

Bernard Cazeneuve, speaking at Sarcelles this morning, said (Le Monde),

Devant la presse, il a estimé qu’il était « légitime » de pouvoir exprimer une position sur les événements de Gaza, où au moins 502 Palestiniens ont été tuésdepuis le 8 juillet. En revanche, il a jugé « intolérable que l’on s’en prenne à des synagogues ou à des commerces parce qu’ils sont tenus par des juifs. Rien ne peut justifier de telles violence ». Dix-huit personnes ont été interpellées après les heurts, selon la police.

In front of the press he considered that it was “legitimate” to be able to express a position on the events in Gaza, where at least 502 Palestinians have been killed since the 8th of July. By contrast he judged that it is “intolerable that people attack synagogues and businesses because they are run by Jews. Nothing can justify such violence.” According to the police 18 people have been asserted after the incidents.

(1) The shop had been already the subject of a grenade attack in September 2013 (see here).

In an important Editorial today Le Monde says that the government’s ban on demonstrations is an admission of its impotence, “Manifestations interdites : l’aveu d’impuissance du gouvernement.”

The statement  notes that President Hollande is right to be concerned about the “importation” of the Israel-Palestinian conflict into France.

But they note that the right to demonstrate, within reasonable limits, is part of the foundations of the Republic.

They cite the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, “ nul ne doit être inquiété pour ses opinions, même religieuses, pourvu que leur manifestation ne trouble pas l’ordre public établi par la loi ». 

Article 10, “No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.”

Le Monde then accuses the government, through its ban on demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinians, of playing, “aux pompiers pyromanes.” (firefighting arsonists, figurative, “fig., personne qui provoque volontairement les maux qu’elle est censée combattre.”, somebody who creates the very problem they claim to be solving).

“Toute manifestation doit être déclarée à la Préfecture de police, en indiquant, au moins trois jours avant, sa date, son heure et son parcours. En d’autres termes, le droit de manifester fait partie des libertés publiques, mais il est légitimement encadré.”

Every demonstration, its timings, and its route,  must be notified to the Police authorities, at least 3 days in advance. In other respects the right to demonstrate, within defined limits, is part of our public freedoms.

Le Monde is absolutely right.

Positions of left parties:

Parti de Gauche “L’interdiction de la manifestation de soutien à la population de Gaza contre l’agression décidée par le gouvernement israélien était bien une provocation et une manipulation.” NPA, “La solidarité avec les Palestiniens est légitime et n’a rien à voir avec de l’antisémitisme !” Front de Gauche, “”Amplifier la solidarité avec le peuple palestinien, défendre le droit de manifester”.

Update: Declaration today (Monday 12st July) against ban on demonstrations by the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, GAZA CROULE SOUS LES BOMBES, ISRAËL S’ENFERRE DANS LA RÉPRESSION, LES INTERDICTIONS DE MANIFESTER DU GOUVERNEMENT FRANÇAIS ATTISENT LES TENSIONS

Demonstration  on Wednesday now  authorised, Le Monde. 

Two nations, two states! AWL Editorial on Gaza.

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Workers Liberty (the paper of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty) has just made a carefully weighed assessment of the horrendous Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Since the latest round of Israeli air bombardments of Gaza began on 8 July, around 200 Palestinians have died.

77% of have been civilians according to UN estimates. Many have been children

On 14 July, Israel ran a ground-troop operation in Gaza, and said it would expand its list of targets for bombing to include civilian institutions with suspected links to Hamas, the Islamist party which governs Gaza. Given that Hamas’s political infrastructure is substantially enmeshed with the frail Gazan state, this could include almost any target Israel chooses. Also on 14 July, Israel began a leaflet-dropping campaign instructing residents of northern Gaza to evacuate as it was preparing to widen its bombing campaign. Hamas has instructed Gazans to stay put.

On Tuesday morning 15 July, Israel announced that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt, but Hamas hesitated, and later that day Israel was bombing again.

Gaza’s economy, always sore beset by Israeli restrictions, managed to grow nearly 15 per cent in 2011 and 7 per cent in 2012. Hamas was also boosted by the Palestinian “unity government” announced on 2 June this year, which allowed it to hope that public-sector workers in Gaza would be paid by the Palestinian Authority.

However, since a military-dominated government took over in Egypt in July 2013, ousting Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi, Egypt has shut down many of Gaza’s routes to the outside world, and unemployment in Gaza has risen. The Palestinian Authority has stalled on paying wages: public sector workers in Gaza struck over that on 26 June.

Hamas wants to put pressure on Egypt and Israel to ease their grip on Gaza. Right-wing Israeli prime minister Netanyahu wants to keep Hamas off balance, and is under pressure from a growing far right in Israel.

The current conflict grew after three Israeli teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar, and Naftal Frenkel, went missing on 12 June in the West Bank. Israeli forces raided thousands of homes in the West Bank, arresting 570 Palestinians and killing several (5 by one report, 10 by another) in the process. The teenagers were found dead near the Palestinian town of Hebron on 30 June.

Far-right Jewish nationalists abducted and murdered 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir on 2 July. Hamas began a barrage of rocket fire, and has now launched nearly 1,000 rockets at Israeli towns. It has also threatened to attack Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. So far, no Israelis have been killed. Israel responded by bombing Gaza.

No state, Israeli nationalists claim, should tolerate rocket barrages, however poorly aimed and ineffective, against its civilian population. That is the rational kernel to the Israeli case. But Israel’s actions go well beyond self-defence. Aerial bombardments of a densely-populated area, with an impoverished and essentially captive population, by one of the best-armed states in the world against are so disproportionate as to undermine the self-defence argument.

The Palestinians, too, have the right to defend themselves. Hamas rockets do not provide that defence.

Israel’s bombardments cannot be abstracted from Israel’s longstanding oppression of the Palestinians. Likewise, Hamas’s rockets are aimed at civilians and must be considered in the context of the social and political project of Hamas. Hamas is a clerical-fascist political party, which, despite the recent concessions to bourgeois diplomacy of some of its leaders, states its hostility to the Israeli-Jewish people even existing in historic Palestine.

Israel’s war on Hamas cannot possibly have a progressive outcome. While Israel continues settlement building in the West Bank; while it keeps the population of Gaza under semi-permanent siege; discriminates against Arabs within its own borders; and operates a regime of walls and checkpoints, it creates the conditions in which Hamas grows.

The only way out is peace. And, for peace, Israel holds all the cards. Ending the siege of Gaza, dismantling West Bank settlements, ensuring equality for Israeli-Arabs, and allowing the Palestinians their right to set up a genuinely independent state in contiguous territory alongside Israel would allow peace — and security for Israel’s people.

The hope for the future of both the Israeli and Palestinian people lies in the political potential of the Palestinian labour, women’s, and LGBT movements, and the potential of the labour movement and internationalist, anti-war left inside Israel. Those movements can provide an alternative politics for Israeli and Palestinians that cut across the nationalism and chauvinism of both sides.

That potential can be glimpsed in the demonstrations which have taken place in Israel, on 3 July and 13 July. On 3 July, thousands demonstrated in Tel Aviv demanding an end to the atmosphere of incitement and vengeance following the deaths of the Israeli teenagers. On 13 July, hundreds of anti-war activists, many from the Israeli political left, demanded an end to the bombing, and faced violent reprisals from far-right nationalists.

As Yacov Ben Efrat, wrote in the left-wing Israeli magazine Challenge following the Israeli assault on Gaza in 2010:

“Solidarity between Jewish and Arab workers is the only way to overcome the cycle of bloodshed. The supreme interest of the workers on both sides of the conflict is to build a political and social alternative, egalitarian and humane, against a right-wing Zionist chauvinism and an Islamic fundamentalism that are leading both peoples into catastrophe”.

This editorial would seem to be the right framework for any serious left-wing discussion of the issues this catastrophe raises.

Update (hat-tip JV)

This is essential and very depressing reading,  With the Oslo dream shattered, Israel must do the creative thinking. (Haaratz)

The Palestinians do not recognize the Jews’ right to a state, so Israel must take steps on its own to improve the atmosphere.

By .

I would add that this is significant, Le courageux combat des pacifistes et progressistes israéliens Israël-Palestine, Rosa Moussaou (l’Humanité)

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Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

Ex-Front National Candidate Gets 9 Months Prison for Racist Facebook Post.

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Far-Right Racist Attacks on Socialist Minister Taubira.

This was a major story on the French media this morning.

A former French local election candidate for the far-right National Front (FN) has been sentenced to nine months in prison for comparing the country’s black justice minister to a monkey. (1)

The court decision has sparked controversy in France, with anti-discrimination associations welcoming it as a reminder that racism should not be allowed to flourish but the party itself denouncing the move as “grotesquely disproportionate” and politically motivated.

Anne-Sophie Leclere provoked a storm last year when she compared Christiane Taubira to a monkey on French television and admitted to posting a photo-montage on Facebook that showed the justice minister, who is from French Guiana, alongside a baby chimpanzee.

The caption underneath the baby monkey said “At 18 months,” while the one under Taubira’s photograph read “Now”.

Leclere had been an FN candidate in Rethel in the northeastern Ardennes region for 2014 local elections, but the party soon dropped her and went on to do well in the March polls.

On Tuesday, a court in Cayenne — the capital of French Guiana — sentenced her to nine months in jail, barred her from standing in elections for five years and fined her 50,000 euros ($68,000).

It also slapped the FN with a 30,000-euro fine, putting an end to a case brought by French Guiana’s Walwari political party founded by Taubira.

Daily News.  AFP.

On France-Inter it was suggested that the absence of the accused (in French Guiana – South America) played a role in determining that there was a prison sentence.

Leclère said,

«Je n’ai pas tenu de propos racistes, j’ai juste reçu un photomontage sur Facebook dont je ne suis pas l’auteur. Je ne suis pas raciste», a affirmé l’intéressée, d’un ton empreint de colère contenue. «C’est une injustice, c’est un jugement partisan et politique», a-t-elle ajouté.

«On n’a trouvé aucun avocat pour nous représenter à Cayenne et je n’avais pas les moyens de me payer le billet d’avion», a expliqué Anne-Sophie Leclère au sujet de son absence au tribunal de Cayenne, saisi d’une plainte du mouvement guyanais Walwari destinée à «dénoncer le fond idéologique d’extrême droite du parti de Marine Le Pen».

I did not make racist remarks, I just cut and pasted a photomontage on Facebook (which I did not create). I am not racist” she asserted, her voice marked by anger, “It’s not right, it’s a politically biased decision.”

“I couldn’t find a lawyer to represent me at Cayenne, and I don’t have the resources to pay for a plane ticket there.” Anne-Sophie Leclère went on, explaining why she did not attend the Court in Cayenne, which was dealing with a complaint initiated by the Guianese movement, Walwari, which was aimed at “denouncing the basis of the extreme-right ideology of Marine Le Pen.”

Libération.

There will be appeals.

(1) The insult was truly vile: Taubira/guenon (female ape).

Reactions here.