The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has dismissed an appeal from far-right former presidential candidate Éric Zemmour and upheld his conviction for ‘inciting discrimination and religious hatred’.
Mr Zemmour had appealed the ruling, which was made in connection to his comments against the Muslim community in France, on the basis of ‘free speech’.
But the ECHR this week released a statement saying that Mr Zemmour’s “freedom of expression” needed to be “interfered” with to protect others.
It said: “The court held that the interference with the applicant’s right to freedom of expression had been necessary in a democratic society to protect the rights of others that were at stake.”
It added that Mr Zemmour’s comments “contained derogatory and discriminatory claims of a kind that might exacerbate a rift between French people and the Muslim community as a whole”.
The comments date to September 2016 when Mr Zemmour was promoting his then-new book on the TV programme C à Vous.
He said that people “who wage jihads” were seen as “good Muslims” by everyone in the Muslim community and that France was seeing “an invasion” in “countless neighbourhoods, where many young women are veiled”.
He said that Muslims in France should be “given a choice between Islam and France…so if they’re French, they have to let go of what their religion is”.
In 2017, Mr Zemmour was fined €5,000 by a criminal court for ‘inciting discrimination, hatred or violence against a group on grounds of their origin or membership of a religion’. This was later reduced to €3,000 after an appeal.
Mr Zemmour then appealed to the highest court in France, and when this was rejected, he escalated the claim to the ECHR.
It is not the first time that the controversial figure has been condemned for racial discrimination.
In 2011, he was convicted for ‘provocation to racial discrimination’, after saying that "most traffickers are black and Arab, that's how it is", on Canal+, in March 2010.
In January 2022, he was convicted for ‘provocation to hatred and violence’ and ‘public insults towards a group of people because of their origin’ after he made remarks in November 2020 about isolated minors being "thieves", "rapists" and "murderers".
He was again convicted on March 4, 2022, but this time for copyright infringement after the broadcast of his presidential campaign video on November 30, 2021. He was found to have used a number of film clips without permission.
Mr Zemmour has also sparked repeated uproar over comments against special needs children, Jews, and immigrants. During his election campaign, his extreme views were described as “making Marine Le Pen appear moderate”.
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