French woman fined for racist refusal to sell land

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The Independent Online

A French woman was convicted of racial discrimination yesterday for refusing to sell a plot of land to a potential buyer of Algerian ancestry.

A French woman was convicted of racial discrimination yesterday for refusing to sell a plot of land to a potential buyer of Algerian ancestry.

Sylviane Sarret was fined €10,000 (£6,800) and handed a four-month suspended jail term, a stiffer penalty than requested by prosecutors.

Sarret, 56, had advertised the land through an estate agent in the eastern French town of Voiron. But on 29 July 2003, she refused to sign with an interested buyer, identified as Hamid Brahmia, a Frenchman of Algerian ancestry.

"It's out of the question that I'll sign with people like that," Sarret said, according to testimony by the estate agent, Jean-Christophe Revil. M. Brahmia, 31, praised the ruling as an "extremely strong message that whether we're of French origin or Arab, we have the same rights."

Sarret was also ordered to pay €2,000 in damages to M. Brahmia and his wife and €1,050 to each of two anti-racism groups that were civil parties to the suit.

Stiffer penalties against racial discrimination are part of a drive by France's centre-right government to crack down on rising hate crimes, which have targeted Muslims and Jews and sparked concern among authorities.

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