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‘Could we slap a witness?’ French judge tweets from court
Two French magistrates sparked a debate this week when they posted humorous tweets during a trial for attempted murder, leading judicial authorities to launch a formal inquiry and the judges, outed by the local press, to close their accounts.
Two French judges caused a debate this week when they posted supposedly humorous tweets during a trial for attempted murder, pushing judicial authorities to question whether tweeting from the courtroom should be banned.
The magistrates, who go by the names of “Gascogne” and “Ed” (@Proc_Gascogne and @Bip_Ed) on the microblogging site, posted the tweets during a trial for attempted murder in the south-western town of Mont-de-Marsan. Joking about strangling the chief judge in the middle of the courtroom, an “exasperated” Ed suggested killing another court member before the pair mused over the legal implications of slapping a witness. “That’s it, I’ve made the witness cry,” one of them quipped.
The tweets were brought to the attention of the regional judicial authorities, which immediately launched an inquiry. Both “Gascogne” and “Ed”, whose identities were revealed on Wednesday by regional newspaper Sud Ouest, have now closed their Twitter accounts.
Legal in France
Tweeting from the courtroom is currently allowed in France and many judges have built up a reputation and following doing just that. The most famous Twitter-friendly lawyer, @Maitre_Eolas, has more than 90,000 followers.
The outing of @Bip_Ed and @Proc_Gascogne by Sud Ouest and the subsequent closure of their accounts sparked a counter-outcry among their Twitter followers, who number in their thousands.
“Total support for @Proc_Gacgogne and @Bip_Ed who were forced to quit Twitter,” journalist @sandbriclot tweeted on Wednesday. “Lamentable, sad and worrying,” she added. Another journalist going by the name of @Talermoincon slammed Sud Ouest newspaper for “sacrificing” the pair for the sake of publicity. “Who are we to give lessons?” he asked.
Famed Twitterer @Maitre_Eolas weighed in on the same day, tweeting that “freedom of expression of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious human rights”. In another tweet, he said argued that “their [@Bip_Ed and @Proc_Gascogne] use of pseudonyms, along with the lack of details on the case, were sufficient precautions.”