French minister sued over race comments
21 October 2013, 21:44
Paris - France's far-right National Front (FN) is taking legal action against the country's most prominent black politician, over disparaging comments she made in response to being compared to a monkey.
The row began last week when a prospective FN candidate for municipal elections next year said on television that she would prefer to see Justice Minister Christiane Taubira "in a tree swinging from the branches rather than in government."
The party immediately dropped the candidate, but Taubira, who is from French Guiana, on Saturday responded with a fierce salvo against the "deadly and murderous thought" of the FN.
"It's blacks in tree branches, Arabs in the sea, homosexuals in the Seine [river], Jews in the oven and so on," she said.
The FN, an anti-immigration, eurosceptic party, in turn responded by saying it would take legal action against Taubira to "uphold the rules of democratic and republican debate and the honour of millions of French who vote for the party".
In a statement, it also asked whether Taubira could stay on as minister.
The Cran, a French umbrella group of associations that fight discrimination against black people reacted to the row on Monday by saying "the world has turned upside down".
"Christiane Taubira is insulted by an FN candidate, and in the end it's the minister who is taken to court by the National Front," Louis-Georges Tin, head of the organisation, said in a statement.
The FN has been seeking a makeover to broaden its voter appeal and dispel its xenophobic image, and appears to be succeeding.
It recently won a key local by-election and is tipped to be the leading French party in European elections also due next year.
The party's image has long been linked to the personality of its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of current party leader Marine Le Pen who has been repeatedly convicted of racial hatred and Holocaust denial.
In its statement, the Cran organisation also denounced what it said was a drift to the right of French politics.
"The [right-wing opposition] UMP imitates the FN, and the Socialist party imitates the UMP. We are now reaping the fruit and the poison of this slow and terrifying drift, brazen racism," it said.