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French court convicts two ex-skinheads in death of teen anti-fascist activist Clément Méric

© Eric Feferberg, AFP | Esteban Morillo (left) arrives at the Paris courthouse prior to the opening hearing of his trial on September 4, 2018.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2018-09-14

Two former skinheads have been found guilty in the 2013 death of Clément Méric, an 18-year-old anti-fascist activist who died after a fight in a Paris street.

Esteban Morillo and Samuel Dufour were convicted of delivering the blows that killed Méric, in a group and using a weapon, both aggravating circumstances.

Morillo, 25-year-old security guard who had admitted to hitting Méric during the June 2013 row between far-right wingers and anti-fascist activists in central Paris, was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Dufour, a 25-year-old baker who denied striking the activist, was handed a seven-year term. Each had denied using a weapon, brass knuckles, during the altercation as accused.

The verdict was delivered on Friday evening after jury deliberations that lasted nine hours. After the decision, both men’s lawyers said they would appeal.

A third man, 29-year-old Alexandre Eyraud, who had been charged with aggravated assault against two of Méric’s associates, was acquitted.

‘Never a victory’

“Incarceration is never a victory,” Agnès Méric, the victim’s mother, said before leaving the courthouse. “What is needed is for the fight against everything that creates a breeding ground for the extreme right to continue.”

Around 6pm on June 5, 2013, far-left and far-right youth turned up, apparently by chance, at the same private clothing sale of Fred Perry and Ben Sherman apparel at a boutique off the French capital’s Grands Boulevards.

As each group recognised its rivals, the atmosphere grew heated, with insults hurled. One far-leftist reportedly taunted the ultra-right-wing faction, clad in T-shirts touting “white power” and “100% pure race”, calling them “Nazis” out shopping. The anti-fascist contingent left the sale first, only to remain in the street nearby. When the skinhead customers sought to leave the boutique, a security guard invited the group to turn right at the exit in a bid to avert an encounter with the far-leftists, but it declined.

Later, 40 minutes after the rival groups first entered the shop, a fight broke out in front of the Saint-Louis d’Antin church nearby. Méric, a native of Brest, western France, who had been recovering from Leukemia, collapsed. The Sciences Po student suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and was pronounced dead the next day.

In the five years since, Méric has become an icon of the antifascist or “antifa” movement in France, which had from the start labelled his death a “political killing” while right-wing extremists claimed those accused in his death had acted in legitimate “self-defence”.

On Friday evening as the verdict was being read, 500 antifascists gathered behind a banner bearing Méric’s likeness for a calm march through eastern Paris proclaiming, among other chants, “Clément! Clément! We haven’t forgotten, we haven’t forgiven.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2018-09-14

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