Al Jazeera investigated a far-right group in France for a year, exposing violence, racism and surprising ties to a mainstream political party.
Lille, France – Three far-right activists in France caught on camera during an Al Jazeera undercover investigation have been found guilty of offences that included assault, and in one case incitement to “terrorism”.
A judge at the High Court in the northern city of Lille said footage from the two-part documentary Generation Hate, by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, played a key role in establishing Tuesday’s verdicts.
Remi Falize, 33, a former leading member of the Flanders branch of the far-right group Generation Identity (GI), was convicted of incitement to “terrorism” and assault. He was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
Falize was filmed by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter who had infiltrated the GI’s Lille branch at the Citadelle bar in the city centre.
Three far-right French activists have been found guilty of assault and in one case, inciting terrorism, after a French court used evidence filmed by @AJIUnit to indict them.
All three were given suspended prison sentences and face fines of more than $4,000.#GenerationHate pic.twitter.com/CMLPYV05V0
— Al Jazeera Investigations (@AJIunit) December 15, 2020
Falize was caught on a covert camera declaring at the bar his dying wish would be to drive a car into the Wazemmes market in Lille, a place popular with Arabs and Muslims.
“The day that I find out I’ve got a terminal illness, dude, I get a weapon, and I go sow carnage,” Falize said. He added: “A mosque, whatever … even a car-ramming, I take my car and bam! There we go! … Next to that, Charlie Hebdo will be like dog’s p***.”
Falize said Wazemmes market “is where all the ‘ragheads’ of Lille go. If you take your car there on a Sunday, it’ll be a massacre”.
“I’ll leave my ID card … like the jihadists do … and then bam! I f*** all your mamas … right into 5th gear. If I manage to survive the first carnage, I’ll do it again, I swear to you.”
Aired in December 2018, the documentary also shows Falize, wearing plastic-reinforced leather gloves, striking a 13-year-old teenage girl four times on the head outside a pub in Lille’s main nightlife district.
The assault came after a group of teenagers approached Falize and his friends and asked for a cigarette.
Etienne “Le Roux” Vanhalwyn, who was also found guilty on Tuesday, was filmed pushing one of the teenagers, while Guillaume Dumont St Priest, a doorman at the bar and the third person convicted by the Lille court, pepper-sprayed them.
“I swear to Mecca, don’t hit me,” the girl pleaded. Falize replied: “What to Mecca? I f*** Mecca.” Following the assault, Falize talked about the attack. “Girl, or no girl, I couldn’t give a f***. They’re just Arabs,” he said.
St Priest, 32, from Saumur in western France, was convicted of assault involving the use of, or threat to use, a weapon. He was given a three-month suspended jail sentence.
Vanhalwyn, 24, from Douai near Lille, was found guilty of public incitement to racial or religious hatred and assault. He was sentenced to five months in prison, suspended for 18 months.
Shortly before the assault, Vanhalwyn was filmed making Nazi toasts at the Citadelle with other far-right activists.
Nicolas Nef Naf, lawyer for SOS Racisme, a French anti-racism charity, welcomed the court’s verdicts.
“They recognised … the racist and far-right ideology that was behind these acts,” Nef Naf told Al Jazeera.
“The decision sends a clear message to the Muslims of France – and around the world but particularly in France – that today we will not accept the normalisation of discriminatory acts perpetrated because of people’s religion and in particular towards Muslims,” he added.
Founded in France eight years ago, GI also has branches in Italy, Austria and Germany.
The group advocates defending “the identity and culture of white Europeans” from what it calls the “great replacement” by immigration and “Islamisation”.
In its investigation, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit revealed evidence of close links between Identitarian activists and key figures in Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, France’s most prominent far-right political party which has since changed its name to National Rally.
In the documentary, two members of the European Parliament, Christelle Lechevalier and Sylvie Goddyn, are seen visiting the Citadelle and expressing support for GI.
After the documentary was broadcast, Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille, called for the Citadelle to be shut down. The bar, however, remains open to this day.