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POLITICS: Meanwhile in France teenagers are sentenced for free speech

There is still no international reaction to the effects of last year's Loi Cazeneuve, which targets those who 'make apology of terrorism'. This beggars belief, given the overwhelming international reaction to the Charlie Hebdo shootings, where government representatives and media outlets worldwide claimed the right to free speech.

Le Parisien reported on another instance of this law being used to sentence a teenager in an article last week. A 19 year-old college student from Montbeliard is sentenced to 3 months conditional bail with restrictions on his movements in and out of the country, for online threats to the Israeli consul and a French deputy abroad. He also posted comments praising the actions of ISIS on Facebook.

Not only did this school student express remorse for his posts online, but his defence lawyer provided ample evidence he was under the effects of an illness which "severely impeded his hearing" and "almost killed him last year".

Is this truly the best use of time in French courts? While these laws allow completely disproportionate prison sentences to be handed out to teenagers, France still has radical blasphemy laws which prevent anyone from querying WW2 history as it affects Jewish culture.

All this plays into the hands of islamists, who chalk up each one of these arrests and sentences to Western oppression of Muslim youths for the crime of expressing radical views online. While I agree with the adage that "tolerance of intolerance" is both damaging and naive (see my last post on the UK response to the 7/7 commemorations), these cack-handed measures cannot be the solution.

France has slipped right into the Islamist trap of conflating religious hate crime with nasty speech. Civil society has and will suffer from these abuses of government powers.


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