Outrage at call for Muslim mother to remove headscarf at French council meeting

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The distressing scene at a meeting of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regional council on Friday. The distressing scene at a meeting of the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté regional council on Friday.

At a regional council meeting in Burgundy on Friday, a councillor from France's far-right Rassemblement National party (formerly the Front National) demanded that a woman in the public gallery should remove her headscarf or leave. She was accompanying a visiting group of primary school children, which included her son who burst into tears over the humiliation of his mother. A photo of the incident immediately caused outrage as it circulated on social media, and has since developed into a major political controversy, dividing members of government and highlighting the blurring of the boundaries of France’s secular rules and their misuse as a weapon for Islamophobia.

The rising threat of Europe’s ultra-right as it eyes military and police

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The gunman in Halle, filmed here by a witness, recorded his rampage on video. © ATV STUDIO HALLE/REUTERS TV via REUTERS The gunman in Halle, filmed here by a witness, recorded his rampage on video. © ATV STUDIO HALLE/REUTERS TV via REUTERS

The suspect arrested for the deadly attacks last Wednesday on a synagogue and Turkish restaurant in the German city of Halle has said his acts were driven by far-right ideology and a hatred of Jews. The shooting and bombing rampage followed a series of attacks around Europe by ultra-right groups, prompting the EU police agency Europol, in a recent confidential report, to urge increased cooperation to contain the problem. But Europol also gave a chilling warning that the extremists “are attempting to win over members from the military and security services” in order to build “combat skills”.

Georgette Elgey, historian and chronicler of French politics

Georgette Elgey during an interview with Mediapart in April 2017. © Mediapart Georgette Elgey during an interview with Mediapart in April 2017. © Mediapart

The French historian, writer and former journalist Georgette Elgey died in Paris this week at the age of 90. She is best known for her exhaustive, six-volume history of France’s Fourth Republic, Histoire de la IVe République, a monumental account of the system of government in France between 1946 and 1958, of which the first volume was published in 1965 and the last in 2012. In 2017, Elgey, who was close to many of those who shaped French politics over the past six decades, gave an insightful interview about her work to Mediapart, republished here.

 

Jailed Football Leaks whistleblower bites back at Portuguese prosecutors

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Rui Pinto shortly before his March 2019 extradition to Portugal from Hungary. © YP Rui Pinto shortly before his March 2019 extradition to Portugal from Hungary. © YP

Rui Pinto, the Portuguese whistleblower behind the Football Leaks revelations of widespread criminality in the world of professional football, ranging from fraud and tax evasion to match-fixing and political corruption, has been held for more than six months in preventive detention in conditions of solitary confinement in a Lisbon jail. Accused of illegal hacking of documents and attempted extorsion, the 30-year-old faces trial for 147 alleged offences relating to his disclosures of illegal practices in the football business in Portugal. But in a defiant statement, Pinto has slammed the Portuguese prosecution services for ignoring the evidence of corruption he gave them, of protecting those behind it, and of transforming him into “a sort of political prisoner”.

The 8-million-euro loan via a UAE bank that saved Marine Le Pen's far-right party

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Far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Paris on January 13th 2019. © Reuters Far-right leader Marine Le Pen in Paris on January 13th 2019. © Reuters

The far-right Rassemblement National – the former Front National – was in serious financial difficulty after the Parliamentary and presidential elections in 2017 and was bailed out by a loan of 8 million euros. That loan, Mediapart can reveal, came from French businessman Laurent Foucher who has a range of commercial interests in Africa and who is close to Nicolas Sarkozy's former right-hand man Claude Guéant. The loan was transferred from a bank in the United Arab Emirates but questions still remain over the precise origin of the money. Karl Laske and Marine Turchi report.

Crackdown on dissident voices in Algeria continues as regime arrests French MP

Mathilde Panot, a senior Member of Parliament for France's radical left opposition party La France Insoumise (LFI) ('France Unbowed'), travelled to Algeria to show her solidarity for the people taking part in the 'Hirak' or popular movement against the regime there. But after two days she and her delegation were arrested and taken to the capital Algiers where she was effectively placed under house arrest in an hotel. After an intervention by France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mathilde Panot was eventually put on a plane back to France. Mediapart's Rachida El Azzouzi, Pauline Graulle and Khedidja Zerouali report on events which highlight the continuing repression of opposition voices in Algeria.

Concern at lack of transparency over Lubrizol chemical plant blaze in France

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The fire at the Lubrizol chemical plant at Rouen, northern France, September 26th 2019. © Reuters The fire at the Lubrizol chemical plant at Rouen, northern France, September 26th 2019. © Reuters

The Lubrizol chemical factory at Rouen in northern France that caught fire on September 26th stores and produces products that are “very dangerous for the environment”, “irritants” and “noxious”, according to reports by the inspectorate in charge of overseeing potentially hazardous sites. In 2016 the inspectorate warned about the risk of the “creation of toxic substances” in the event of a fire. Jade Lindgaard examines the background to the chemical plant where local residents are alarmed about the risk of dangerous pollution.

How Qatar 'bought' the right to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships

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A race during the IAAF Diamond League competition on May 3rd 2019 in Doha. © Reuters A race during the IAAF Diamond League competition on May 3rd 2019 in Doha. © Reuters

Qatar promised 37.5 million dollars to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) just hours before it won the right to stage the 2019 World Athletics Championships was awarded. Some 4.5 million of this was due to be paid to the son of the IAAF president at the time, Papa Massata Diack. The IAAF says that in the end that money was never paid to Diack. Yann Philippin and Antton Rouget report on the background to the awarding of the prestigious event now taking place at Doha in Qatar –and where the athletes have been sweltering in the heat.

France's frail and fragile democracy

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Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump during the G7 at Biarritz, south-west France, August 25th 2019. © Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump during the G7 at Biarritz, south-west France, August 25th 2019. © Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

The reaction to Donald Trump's behaviour and the attempts at impeachment highlights the vitality of democratic culture in the United States when faced with executive abuse of power. In contrast, argues Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel, France is served by a low-intensity democracy that has been undermined by the country's system of presidential monarchy.

How French warplanes sold to Egypt helped Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar

A French-made Egyptian air force Rafale fighter plane taking off as part of an air raid in Libya in 2017. A French-made Egyptian air force Rafale fighter plane taking off as part of an air raid in Libya in 2017.

In April 2019 the self-styled 'Field Marshal' Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive against the regime in Tripoli which is acknowledged by the international community as Libya's legitimate government. Yet during his recent military campaign to control the east of the country, the warlord has had the discreet help of several important allies, including France. And as Yann Philippin, René Backmann and Antton Rouget report, Haftar also received air support from French-made Rafale jets which had been sold to Egypt.

Jacques Chirac: an obsession with power

Jacques and Bernadette Chirac on a visit to Sarran in the Corrèze in central France in 1993. © Reuters Jacques and Bernadette Chirac on a visit to Sarran in the Corrèze in central France in 1993. © Reuters

The former French president Jacques Chirac died on September 26th, at the age of 86. Chirac, who was head of state from 1995 to 2007, and who had previously been prime minister of France and mayor of Paris, leaves behind him 40 years of political combat. But his political legacy is a modest one, the leftover of a career built upon the sole ambition of gaining and clinging on to power. That came at the cost of incessant political trench warfare, alliances and counter-alliances, betrayals and scandals, while blithely shifting positions to court popularity. Mediapart charts the key episodes that mark the political life of a man obsessed with power.

Former French president Jacques Chirac dies at 86

Jacques Chirac in December 2010. © Reuters Jacques Chirac in December 2010. © Reuters

Former French president Jacques Chirac, the Gaullist conservative who served two terms as head of state and twice as prime minister, who was for 18 years mayor of Paris and who was convicted of corruption after leaving office, has died at the age of 86. Graham Tearse reports.

Why new 'anti-White racism' ideology is the legacy of ignoring France's colonial question

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The notion of 'anti-White racism' is an ideological construct aimed at downplaying the systemic, social and cultural racism endured by black people and people of North African origin in France. Mediapart publishing editor Edwy Plenel says that its emergence in public debate is a sign of how France has failed to face up to the issue of colonialism, to both its long past and its persistence today.

The whistleblowing doctor who took on French pharma giant over 'killer' drug

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Pulmonologist Irène Frachon who exposed the devastating effects of the drug Mediator. © Charles Platiau/Reuters Pulmonologist Irène Frachon who exposed the devastating effects of the drug Mediator. © Charles Platiau/Reuters

A trial opened in Paris on Monday centred on one of France’s biggest-ever pharmaceutical scandals, so vast and involving so many people that it is expected to last up to seven months. French pharmaceutical firm Servier is accused of hiding the killer side effects of its drug Mediator, a treatment for type-2 diabetes patients, but which was widely prescribed as an appetite suppressant. Up to 2,000 patients are estimated to have died from pulmonary and heart disease caused by Mediator, the dangers of which the drug safety authorities, several of whose members are also standing trial, turned a blind eye to. The scandal was revealed ten years ago by pulmonologist Irène Frachon, whose dogged investigations have seen her ostracised by many in the medical establishment. She talks about her campaign and its aftermath in this interview with Rozenn Le Saint.

Prosecutor recommends former French PM and minister stand trial for alleged corruption scam

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Édouard Balladur (centre) in 1995 with François Léotard (right) and Nicolas Sarkozy. © Reuters Édouard Balladur (centre) in 1995 with François Léotard (right) and Nicolas Sarkozy. © Reuters

Senior public prosecutor François Molins has concluded that former French prime minister Édouard Balladur and the defence minister who served under him, François Léotard, should be sent for trial for siphoning payments from public weapons contracts with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to fund Balladur’s presidential election campaign. Molins’s formal recommendations follow a lengthy judicial investigation into what has become known in France as “the Karachi affair”, a complex and far-reaching alleged corruption scam which surfaced after the murders of 11 French naval engineers in the Pakistani port city in 2002.