Far-right French candidate 'took local mairie worker hostage at gunpoint'

Annie Bell, running in Mayenne, is reported to have fired a gun during a three-hour standoff

Annie Bell allegedly took the general secretary of a local town hostage with the help of her husband
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A candidate for the far-right Rassemblement National is under pressure to stand down from Sunday’s second round of the legislative elections amid claims she previously took  a mairie worker hostage at gunpoint.

Annie Bell, 76, candidate for the third circonscription (constituency) of Mayenne in Pays de la Loire, came second in the area with 31.10% of the vote on June 30, behind centrist candidate and current MP for the area Yannick Favennec. 

In reporting the results, regional media Ouest-France went through their archives, and claim it found that Ms Bell has made the headlines before - as an armed hostage-taker.

It reports that in 1995 she and her husband took the general secretary of Ernée – a small town in the department – hostage after breaking into his office at the mairie.

Ms Bell – called Annie-Claire Bell-Jaccoud (or Jacquoud) in reports at the time (she is thought to have been using her husband’s name) – allegedly hid a gun in her coat pocket before entering the town hall, and engaging “in a shouting match” with the general secretary.

Amongst the fracas, it is claimed she fired a shot from the gun although this did not injury anyone.

A three-hour standoff ensued before local gendarmes convinced the couple to release the hostage uninjured and leave the town hall. 

The reason why the couple took the hostage is not known, but Ms Bell’s husband was said to be “in serious financial difficulties” at the time.

Their leather crafting business, which employed a dozen people, had been forced to close in 1993 for financial reasons.

Earlier this week in the same department candidate Paule Veyre de Soras said the party were not racist ‘because she had a Jewish doctor and a Muslim dentist’

In nearby Calvados in Normandy, a RN candidate withdrew from the second round of the legislative elections after photos of her wearing a Nazi officer’s hat surfaced on social media. 

Read more: Far-right French election candidate withdraws over pic of her in Nazi hat

Sentenced to ten months in prison

Ms Bell was reported to have been charged with séquestration avec arme (unlawful confinement with a weapon) in June 1995, and sentenced to ten months in prison.

The candidate, contacted by numerous media outlets, said she would not comment on the claims “until after the elections.” 

Her fellow Rassemblement National candidate in the department’s second circonscription Jean-Michel Cadenas added that “[Ms Bell has] no criminal record, so there is no case,” against her. 

In France as in many other countries, certain offences can be removed from criminal records after set periods of time which may explain Mr Cadenas’ comment.

However, her fellow candidates have criticised her, putting pressure on her to pull out of the race. 

“I am appalled. I do not see how a woman like her could represent the people of Mayenne in the National Assembly, let alone France", said Mr Favennec, current MP for the seat and her competitor in a two-way duel in the upcoming election this Sunday (July 7). 

As of Wednesday morning (July 3), Ms Bell is still running in the second round.