Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Air Algérie crash: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

France

French union worker’s trial becomes hot election issue

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2012-01-05

With France’s presidential election just around the corner, candidates on the left have rallied behind an embattled union leader, Xavier Mathieu (pictured), but with one notable exception.

The case of a union leader who refuses to submit a sample of his DNA to authorities in the northern city of Amiens has become a rallying call for the French left as the country gears up for the presidential elections in April.

Four presidential hopefuls personally showed their support for Xavier Mathieu on Wednesday, who in 2010 was convicted for participating in the ransacking of a public building during a protest against job cuts at tyre-manufacturer Continental, and for which he was fined 4,000 euros.

Mathieu said he participated in the protest but denied having destroyed any property.

After his 2010 conviction, Mathieu refused to submit a saliva sample that would have allowed authorities to keep his DNA on file. Under French law, people found guilty of certain crimes are required to submit to this form of data collection. The labour leader protested, arguing that he would never allow his DNA to be filed among those of serial killers and child molesters.

Mathieu was already acquitted in June 2011 for refusing to submit to DNA sampling, but state prosecutors appealed the case and he was back in court Wednesday. On Monday he denounced what he called “the obsession” of a government which “two years after the conflict, continues to persecute those who had the courage to fight layoffs”.

Symbolic battle for the left

Eva Joly (Green party), Jean-Luc Melenchon (Left Front), Nathalie Arthaud (Worker’s Struggle) and Philippe Poutou (New Anti-capitalist Party) lined up in front of the court of appeals in Amiens Wednesday to back Mathieu.

François Hollande, Socialist Party candidate and frontrunner in the election, was the only candidate on the left who declined to appear alongside the unionist. The Socialist Party said that a local senator would officially represent the political group at the gathering.

In 2009 Mathieu became the emblematic leader of the Continental labour battle and the “Contis”, as the workers become known in France. The plant in northern France was closed leaving 1,120 people unemployed and a community devastated. However, a heated and unrelenting campaign by workers saw them collect 50,000 euros in severance.

On April 22, 2009 around 200 Continental workers invaded a regional government building, breaking windows and trashing offices to protest what they said was the government’s lack of commitment in protecting their jobs.

The story of the “Contis” fighting back has since become a symbolic battle for the left.

Election to be won on centre ground?

According to Florence Faucher, director of research at the National Foundation of Political Science in Paris, there is little motivation for Hollande to appear alongside other candidates farther to the left.

“The position of the far-left parties is what it usually is, and that is to exert pressure on the Socialist Party candidate to be more on the left. But the elections are won in the political centre, so appearing farther on the left is not helpful to Hollande,” Faucher said.

Speaking on RTL television hours before his trial, Mathieu said he was disappointed the Socialist candidate Hollande would not personally appear in Amiens. “It’s sad, but it’s their choice… [Continental workers] have been the symbol of the working class struggle for the past three years.”

Date created : 2012-01-04

  • FRANCE

    Socialist rival Hollande attacks Sarkozy on economy

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Socialists set up watchdog to survey Sarkozy travel costs

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    France’s Socialists anoint Hollande as candidate

    Read more

COMMENT(S)