FRANCE

Former interior minister cleared of racism charges

A French appeals court has cleared former interior minister Brice Hortefeux of racism charges, overturning a previous conviction for remarks made in 2009 about a youth of Arab descent.

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AP - A French appeals court has overturned a racism conviction against a former interior minister and ally of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Brice Hortefeux – then France's top law enforcement official – was convicted last year of "private insults of a racial nature'' and fined. He was later ousted from the government, but remains close to Sarkozy.

A Paris appeals court reversed the ruling on Thursday, acquitting him of the charges.

Hortefeux was caught on camera in 2009 making what sounded like anti-Arab remarks after talking to a young man of North African descent. He insists his words were innocent and misconstrued. Anti-racism groups sued. The incident was particularly sensitive because of Hortefeux's tough immigration policies.
 

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