Anti-semitic insult shames judges' union

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The Independent Online
A FRENCH magistrates' union yesterday passed an instant death sentence on itself following the publication of an anti-semitic slur in the union journal. Following an extraordinary sequence of events, the head of the union called for the dissolution of the 18-year-old organisation as a mark of contrition and shame.

The decision follows an article in the magazine of the Association Professionelle des Magistrats (APM), criticising Albert Levy, a public prosecutor who has been suspended for allegedly leaking details ofsensitive investigations. The article said: "Levy went back to the oven so many times that he ended up burning himself." Mr Levy is Jewish.

Possible legal and disciplinary actions have already been launched against the author of the article, a senior magistrate called Alain Terrail, 65, who is the chief public prosecutor in the highest French appeal court, the Cour de Cassation.

Mr Terrail - a former president of the APM - denies any anti-semitic intentions. But the current president, Georges Fenech, said a magistrates' union should be above suspicion.

"The APM has signed its own death warrant and has been assassinated by a stroke of the pen," he said yesterday.

"The facts are extremely serious. Even if it is unintentional, we have to accept the consequences of it ..."

The national bureau of the union will meet next week to discuss Mr Fenech's recommendation that the organisation should dissolve itself. The use of the word "four", or oven, in French carries highly-emotive connotations of the Holocaust, partly because the word has been used mockingly by Jean-Marie Le Pen, president of the National Front. Mr Le Pen has been successfully prosecuted for his slighting use of the word in the past.

The furore surrounding the article has re-ignited the controversy that followed the arrest and prosecution of Mr Levy, the deputy public prosecutor of Toulon, one of the five towns in France run by the NF.

Mr Levy is accused of leaking details of investigations of corruption in the town, involving both the NF and centre-right parties.

The decision to take legal action against Mr Levy was widely interpreted as a political act.