It is a decision that gives an overview of what justice can do in France in the face of a neo-Nazi website, the target of numerous legal proceedings and at the origin of a violent campaign of hatred and harassment.
The Lyon Criminal Court on Tuesday (December 17th) sentenced a far-right internet user to six months suspended prison sentence for reporting a racist and sexist article on Facebook. Sylvain C., 38 years old and living with his mother and son north of Lyon, was one of the thousands of Internet users who abused Julie Hainaut in the fall of 2017. A harassment campaign of rare proportions launched by the publication by this journalist of Lyon of an article relaying the questionable words of the owners of a cocktail bar “Colonial”.
The neo-Nazi Participative Democracy website, one of the most radical in “Fachosphère” and whose access was normally blocked in France by court order, threw himself on this story and had devoted several articles to it. One of them called Ms. Hainaut “Negro whore feminist” and of “Negrophilic female”.
It is this post that Sylvain C. shared on Facebook, and which brought him to appear in justice. The latter also ordered him to pay Julie Hainaut 5,000 euros in damages and 2,000 euros in legal costs. At Reporters Without Borders and the National Union of Journalists, civil parties to the trial, he will have to pay 500 euros each.
The accused absent at the hearing
At the hearing, Tuesday, November 19, Sylvain C. had not moved. “The defendant, who adheres to the darkest philosophies of our History, does not even have the courage to come to explain himself” had creaked the prosecutor. The latter, after a short argument, with demanded a very severe sentence for press offenses: one year in prison.
Sylvain C.’s lawyer, Xavier Moroz, had unsuccessfully pleaded his client’s release, noting in particular that he was not responsible for the thousands of hate messages that swept over Julie Hainaut. “We want to make my client an example, but to do justice is not to make an example. Sylvain C. is a scapegoat “, pleaded the lawyer.
In a somewhat acrobatic way, the latter also tried to convince the judges that the insults appearing in the title of the article shared and visible by the Facebook friends of Sylvain C – “Black whore” – was not illegal. The lawyer also recalled that at the time his client shared the article, the Participative Democracy site appeared to be unavailable and that it was impossible to determine who was the subject of this publication. Reservations swept away by the magistrates.
“We must not wait for the dead! “
“I'm relieved to be there. It’s been two years since I’ve been heard ” had denounced Julie Hainaut in the courtroom, sobs in her voice, still marked, two years later, by the wave of hatred. She explained that she had withdrawn from certain social networks, had given up her university lessons, for fear that she would be recognized and that the campaign against her would restart. And also deplored having never been heard by the examining magistrate. “If I had been beaten in place of each insult, each threat of rape, perhaps I would have been listened to more”, she had cracked before the president of the court.
“If only it were just words …”, pleaded his lawyer, Eric Morain, denouncing the reluctance of the justice system to prosecute hate-mongers online.
“If we look in the rear view mirror, in recent years, legal means have been put in place to fight against harassment, school or work. This is because these are not just words: at the end of the chain there are children who hang themselves in their rooms or employees who throw themselves out of the window. We must not wait for the dead to put the words of the law on “negro” or “whore”! “
The shadow of Boris Le Lay
The conviction of Sylvain C constitutes “Half satisfaction”, reacted Julie Hainaut to the World at the announcement of the judgment. “This is good news because one of my stalkers was convicted when he asked for his release. But I regret that justice has not gone after the many other perpetrators who have threatened me with rape, death, insult, defamation. “
By searching his home and partially analyzing his computer devices, the investigators had confirmed Sylvain C’s radical ideology. Before the investigating judge, he even said he agreed with the insults formulated against Julie Hainaut. Investigators, however, found no evidence to support the idea that he may be the original author of the article he had shared. And several times during the hearing, the name of the man whom the authorities consider to be the owner of the neo-Nazi Participative Democracy website was mentioned: the ultranationalist blogger Boris Le Lay.
Mr. Le Lay, condemned in his absence on several occasions, in particular for inciting hatred, escaped justice. Targeted by several arrest warrants, he resides, according to several sources, in Japan. However, the French authorities have not yet made an extradition request. In the prosecution of Sylvain C., the inquiry did not pay much attention to the case of Mr. Le Lay. A point that Eric Morain did not fail to raise: “Boris Le Lay is on file S, he has an Interpol file and taunts the authorities. I do not know what is the geographical limit of a magistrate, Belgium? And when it’s further away, we don’t try anymore? “
On this point, perhaps, MM. Moroz and Morain were able to find common ground. “My client is a culprit by default!” The one we were aiming for is Boris Le Lay and we are making my client bear the brunt of the fachosphere “ confirmed Sylvain C.’s lawyer. Sylvain C. and the prosecution have ten days to appeal on the merits.