Revealed: mayor who refused baby burial has history of anti-Roma sentiment

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Christian Leclerc, the mayor of Champlan near Paris who provoked a media storm last weekend when he refused to allow a Roma baby to be buried in his town, has form when it comes to antipathy towards the community. Since the controversy Leclerc has sought to portray himself as a victim of the media and political opponents and claims he has been misrepresented. But Mediapart has got hold of a recording of a recent council meeting in which the mayor denigrated the Roma people in his area. He also wrote a letter to local residents in which he fuelled their fears over a suspected case of tuberculosis. Carine Fouteau and Ellen Salvi report.

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The French mayor who refused the burial of a Roma baby who died just after Christmas has a history of stirring up sentiment against the community, Mediapart can reveal. Christian Leclerc faced a media storm after it was revealed that his council at Champlan south of Paris did not allow a young child called Maria Francesca to be buried in the town's cemetery. Now this website has obtained the recording of a town council meeting held on November 28th, 2014, during which the right-wing mayor openly stigmatises children from the Roma community who are at school in the town and stirs up prejudice about them. On the tape he can be heard contrasting Roma children with the “little boys and girls of Champlan” who “have a shower every morning”.

After the burial controversy broke last weekend Christian Leclerc, who stands on a 'diverse right' ticket, has changed his defence several times, while also trying to portray himself as the victim. First of all he claimed there were “few places available” in the local cemetery, and said that “priority [was] given to those who pay their local taxes”. Then the mayor spoke about a “misunderstanding”, before denying that he had refused to bury the ten-week-old girl at all. He later blamed an “administrative error” and claimed that comments had been “taken out of context”, while insisting he “very much” hoped the girl would be buried in the town after all. He also described the controversy as a “travesty” and threatened action for defamation. Now the mayor is said to be “distraught” over the controversy that has developed since Le Parisien newspaper broke the story on Saturday 3rd January.