A French court on Thursday sentenced three French far-Right activists to six months in prison for impersonating members of the security forces to stop migrants crossing a mountain pass from Italy into France.
The three, Clément Gandelin, Romain Espino and Damien Lefèvre, are all leading figures in the French branch of Generation Identity.
Lefèvre is a former head of communications for a mayor from Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party, formerly called the National Front. Only Gandelin attended court and he remained silent except for saying it was a political trial. Espino’s lawyer said he would appeal.
Generation Identity was fined €75,000 (£68,000) and the three were each fined €2,000 (£1,814) and barred from exercising civic, civil or family rights for five years. That means they will not be permitted to vote or hold legal custody of children.
A “commando” of about 100 Generation Identity members and supporters attempted to block mountain roads and prevent migrants from crossing the Col de l’Echelle, a 1,762m-high Alpine pass near the border, in a highly publicised operation in April last year.
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The group deployed drones, a fleet of 4x4s, two helicopters and a specially chartered light aircraft, funded by donations that reportedly received a boost from the Twitter network of David Duke, the former US Klu Klux Klan leader.
They erected makeshift barriers and unfurled a banner in English that read: “Closed border. You will not make Europe your home. No way. Back to your homeland.”
For two months, they claimed to be “holding the border”, intercepting migrants and promising to break up people-smuggling networks if the authorities failed to act. They posted video footage of their actions on social media, prompting the government to beef up security.
The trial in the Alpine town of Gap was the first criminal case in France against Generation Identity, although the authorities have used the country’s new law against hate speech to trigger suspensions of individual members’ social media accounts.
French anti-racist organisations have repeatedly called for the group to be banned. Generation Identity’s Austrian chapter has been investigated over reports that it took money from the alleged Christchurch mosque attacker.
Migrants started braving snow and ice to cross the Alps after France re-introduced border controls with Italy following the 2015 Paris terror attacks. Thousands are believed to have crossed since then and some have died of hypothermia in the mountains. ENDS
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