SHAFAQNA – A far-right French mayor has appeared in court on charges of inciting hatred for his remarks last year, in which he said that there were too many Muslim children at the schools in his city, and implied that the ethnic French population is being “replaced.”
Robert Menard, mayor of the southern town of Béziers and an ally of Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration and Eurosceptic National Front party, appeared before Paris Criminal Court on Wednesday for the launch of his trial for incitement of hatred, in relation to two statements he made in 2016.
“In a class in the city center in my town, 91 percent of the children are Muslims. Obviously, this is a problem,” he said in an interview on the French news channel LCI in September.
If found guilty, Menard faces a €1,800 fine to be payable within 60 days and will face a prison term if he refuses to pay up.
In support of the request for punishment, the prosecutor argued that by allowing such a remark the mayor portrayed children as a “burden for the national community.”
“He reduced them to their religion, regardless of whether they are French nationals or do not practice this religion,” the prosecutor said, as cited by AFP.
In May 2015, Menard, a former socialist and co-founder of Reporters Without Borders, was accused of racism after he “counted” the names of schoolchildren to determine how many of them were Muslim, coming up with a figure of 64.6 percent. Keeping statistics on people’s race or religion is not permitted in France.
And, in September 2015, Menard again caused outrage after a video emerged of him going around Syrian refugees’ houses telling them, “You are not welcome in this town.”