In a case being backed by a leading anti-racism group, a trial began in France on Friday in which the defendant stands accused of a racially-motivated attack on a white man in a Paris metro station.
The trial of a 29-year-old accused of a racially motivated attack on a white man in a Paris metro station began at a court house in the French capital on Friday, in a legal case being backed by a leading anti-racism group.
According to the prosecution, the accused man assaulted the victim after first using a string of racial slurs - including “sale Français” (dirty Frenchman) and “sale blanc” (dirty white).
It is also alleged that he used a broken bottle as a weapon during the attack, which took place in 2010.
While this is not the first accusation of incidents of so-called ‘anti-white’ racism in France, this latest case is the first to have been backed by leading anti-racism group, The international league against racism and anti-Semitism (Licra), which is supporting the prosecution.
"Insulted because he was white"
In an interview with French radio station RFI, Licra vice-president Philippe Schmidt said he believes there was clearly a racial dimension to the attack. “He was insulted because he was white," said Schmidt.
Although only one suspect is standing trial, there were reportedly several others involved in the assault.
"They came after him because of the colour of his skin," Schmidt commented. "The guy is white, the guy is French, and that's why they came after him."
The notion of whites as the victims of racist abuse is not new in France, but remains highly controversial.
'Anti-white racism' storm
In 2012, Jean-Francois Copé, now the head of France’s right wing political party the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) but then its general secretary, sparked outrage and a nation-wide debate when he published a book in which he claimed anti-white racism is a growing problem in French towns.
“This racism is as unacceptable as every other form of racism - we must denounce it as we condemn all other forms of discrimination,” he wrote.
Copé’s comments drew unfavourable comparisons with the far right Front National, led by Marine Le Pen.
Licra and far right?
However, Schmidt insists Licra’s involvement in the trial does not equate to support of far right views.
"At the end of the road they [the far right] want the same thing, but not for the same reason," he told RFI.
"They have a very archaic and extremist view of society. They think it should be French, white and Catholic. That's not the way I see the world."
Meanwhile, the defendant in the Paris court case admits to being present at the scene of the attack, but denies allegations of racism, saying that he became involved in the altercation only to protect a friend.
Should he be found guilty, he could face a €75,000 fine as well as up to five years in prison.
The trial continues.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-04-26