French anti-immigrant group members jailed and fined

Three members of a French right-wing anti-immigration group have been sentenced to six months in prison and a fine of €2,000 each for their part in anti-immigrant actions on the Franco-Italian border.

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The court handed the sentences out on Thursday August 29, and highlighted the “extremely serious nature of the acts” carried out in 2018 by the extreme-right group, Génération Identitaire.

The accused were charged with “activities carried out under conditions likely to create confusion in the minds of the public with the performance of a public service", in reference to the group’s campaign to act as border vigilantes and take immigration matters into their own hands.

The trio were also stripped of their “civic, civil and family rights” for five years, and the action group itself was also ordered to pay the maximum fine of €75,000.

The court prosecutor Raphaël Balland, said: “The objective [of their actions] was indeed to say: ‘Look, we can do the State’s work, survey the borders, make inquiries, apprehend migrants…”.

The three individuals sentenced this week were Génération Identitaire president, Clément Gandelin; spokesperson Romain Espino; and former Beaucaire Mairie communication director, Damien Lefèvre.

Only Mr Gandelin was present in court, and he used his right to remain silent, except to criticise the trial as “nothing more than political”.

Later, Mr Lefèvre, known as Damien Rieu on Twitter, said that the State had “persecuted young French people who dare to show symbolically and peacefully that defending our borders is possible”.

In a later tweet, he added: "I am more determined than ever to fight to defend my country."

The charges focused on an anti-immigration campaign dubbed “Defend Europe”, mounted by the group in April 2018.

This included around 100 people in a blue “Defend Europe” uniform (pictured, below), stationed on the border in the Hautes-Alpes, along with two helicopters. The group held a giant banner as a “symbolic ‘closed’ border”, and set up plastic barriers in the snow.

For two months, the campaign gathered support on social media, as the group claimed it was continuing to “hold”, “patrol” and “surveil the border”, as well as “checking the area”, “picking up migrants”, “stopping” their arrival into France, “keeping records” on those who passed by, and even driving some migrants to the police or gendarmerie.

They said: “If the State will not do it, we will do it ourselves.”

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