Jean Marie Le Pen, the former leader of French extreme-right group the National Front, has been fined €5,000 for suggesting Romanians were “naturally” inclined to steal.
Speaking at a rally in September last year, he said that Romanians “are like birds… they fly (voler) naturally,” French newspaper Libération reported.
The French verb “voler” means both to fly and to steal.
A Paris court ruled that the 85-year-old politician, who is also the founder of the National Front, was guilty of publicly insulting a group of people based on their ethnicity. The prosecution had requested a two year suspended sentence for Le Pen, who recently announced he is running in France's upcoming municipal elections.
Bernadette Hétier, the co-president of anti-racism group Mrap, told Libération that the verdict “was in favour of Romanian dignity,” and was thankful Le Pen's conviction “created as much publicity as his remarks when they were made, deeply unfortunately, in 2012.”
Le Pen's lawyer Wallerand de St Just had argued that the remarks were made as a joke. The French politician has repeatedly been convicted under France's racial hatred laws, as well as for Holocaust denial after he described the Nazi gas chambers as a “small detail” of World World Two in a BBC Hardtalk interview.
It is the latest in a spate of controversies surrounding the National Front, who have enjoyed a surge of popularity in France due to its stance on immigration. Le Pen's daughter Marine, who is currently the party's leader, recently lost her parliamentary immunity after comparing Muslim prayers in the street to the Nazi occupation. She is reportedly facing charges of inciting racial hatred.
“For those who like to talk about World War Two, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory. There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same, and it weighs on people,” she said at a 2010 party rally.
The President of France's Union of Jewish Students Jonathan Hayoun said the verdict revealed how “one of the National Front's leaders continues to hold racist views.”
“We ask Marine Le Pen: When will she expel [her father] from the party, considering she has committed herself to excluding all candidates who hold racist views and who are convicted by the justice system?” he added.
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