French court fines seven people for anti-Semitic posts against Miss France runner-up

A French court fined seven people on Wednesday for a torrent of anti-Semitic abuse on social media targeting the finalist in the latest Miss France pageant.

April Benayoum, who competed for the Miss France title in December, became the target of hate messages after saying at the event that her father is of Israeli origin.

The insults, such as “Hitler forgot about this” and “Do not vote for a Jew”, were published mainly on Twitter and led to the condemnation of politicians and associations.

On Wednesday, a Paris court ordered seven defendants, four women and three men, to pay fines of between 300 and 800 euros (between $ 350 and $ 930) each.

An eighth suspect was acquitted and the court concluded that his tweet was not directed directly at Benayoum.

During the trial, all the suspects admitted to posting the messages, but denied that they were anti-Semitic, with some arguing that they were making a political statement in defense of the Palestinian cause.

But the court found that the posts expressed “a rejection of a person because of his origins” or “because of his alleged religion” and that they were aimed directly at Benayoum.

The seven were also asked to pay one euro in damages to the contestant and various anti-racism and anti-Semitism associations that had joined the plaintiffs.

Four of them were also asked to attend a two-day civics class, according to the court, without fully understanding the seriousness of their actions.

Jean-Louis Lagarde, a lawyer for the MRAP anti-racism association, called the penalties “light” and said they were still “educational.”

The sentence showed that “you cannot hide behind the Internet, or behind Twitter,” he said.

Benayoum’s lawyer, Jean Veil, said he blamed Twitter itself because the messaging platform had allowed offensive tweets to remain visible for several days.

“My client believes that Twitter’s negligence is to blame in this case,” Veil said, adding that a separate case had been filed against the platform.


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