Alain Soral, one of France’s most prominent far-right provocateurs, has been sentenced to one year in jail for denying the Holocaust.
The 60-year-old was also ordered to pay back €6,000 ($6,780) in legal fees to the four anti-racism NGOs that sued him on behalf of the government. Soral’s lawyer, Damien Viguier, was also fined for a legal conclusion he authored in a separate case, which Soral published online, in which Viguier defended the theories of professor-turned-Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson (paywall).
Soral did not appear in court for sentencing today, and a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Who is Alain Soral and what is he accused of?
Soral has had a long career as an anti-establishment activist and author (paywall). He made a name for himself defending both far-right and far-left causes, as well as infamous Holocaust deniers like Faurisson and comedian Dieudonné M’bala Bala (paywall). Soral achieved online fame in recent years via his website, Egalité et Réconciliation, a nationalist platform that describes itself as “leftwing on labor but rightwing on values.”
In recent months, Soral has shown support for the Yellow Vests (video), the grassroots protest movement that mirrors his own political stance in many ways. The Yellow Vests are a populist, leaderless force that spans the political spectrum and unites over a set of grievances with some common themes: a distrust of government, globalization, and minorities.
In 2016, Soral published a cartoon of a fake front page of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo bearing the caption “disoriented historians.” The page was entitled “Chutzpah Hebdo” and featured Charlie Chaplin’s face in front of a star of David, surrounded by a shoe, a wig, a bar of soap, and a lampshade, with the question “Shoah, where are you?” The drawing was a reference to the Stromae song “Papaoutai” (meaning “Dad, where are you?”), but was also a play on words meant to imply doubt about the existence of the Holocaust, or Shoah as it is known in Hebrew. The symbols around the cartoon are references to Faurisson’s pseudo-scientific investigations claiming to show that the genocide of more than 6 million Jews during World War II never took place.
The criminal court of Paris had already sentenced Soral to three months in jail for questioning crimes against humanity, which is a crime in France under the Gayssot Act, and for injure raciale, or “racial insult.”
“This is an important decision because it puts a stop to Alain Soral and his negationist and anti-Semitic writings,” said Sacha Ghozlan, president of the French Union of Jewish Students, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “He is someone who has a political agenda, which is to arm anti-Semites intellectually against Jews. So, this victory is not a victory for Jewish people, but rather a victory for the Republic, because when Jews are threatened, the Republic is threatened.”
This is not Soral’s first run-in with the law, or his first prison sentence; and he has already announced his intention to appeal the verdict (link in French). If he does, Ghozlan says his organization will be prepared to return to court “as many times as is necessary for Alain Soral to get to the place that is most suitable for him, that is to say prison.”