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French antifascist's death anniversary marked, far-right chiefs face trial

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Saturday's demonstration in memory of Clément Méric in Paris AFP

Left-wing activists demonstrated in France on Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of Clément Méric, an 18-year-old "Antifa" activist killed in a fight with far-right skinheads in Paris. Tension between the two camps continues, with far-right attacks on university occupations earlier this year and two men facing trial on Monday for allegedly reestablishing organisations banned after Méric's killing.


There were demonstrations in Paris and several other French cities to commemorate Méric, whose alleged killers, Esteban Morillo and Samuel Dufout, are awaiting trial at the assize court.

The two skinheads face charges of manslaughter while in possession of deadly weapons, while two others are charged with assaulting Méric companions during a clash in the street near Saint Lazare railway station.

Far-right leaders on trial

The assailants were members of the small far-right group Troisième Voie (Third Way), which was banned by President François Hollande after Méric's death along with two other organisations, L'Oeuvre Française and the Jeunesses Nationalistes Révolutionnaires (JNR).

The leaders of the latter two groups, 52-year-old Yvan Benedetti and 28-year-old Alexandre Gabriac, are to appear in court in the central city of Lyon on Monday, accused of keeping their groups going in defiance of the ban.

To read Who are the French far right? click here

Benedetti became leader of L'Oeuvre Française, which was founded by Nazi sympathiser Pierre Sidos in 1968, after being expelled from the National Front for declaring himself "anti-Zionist, anti-Semite and anti-Jew".

Gabriac was also expelled from the larger far-right party, which he represented on the Rhône-Alpes regional council, after the publication of a photo of him giving a Nazi salute.

He joined the JNR, which was founded by veteran skinhead street-fighter, Serge Ayoub, as the youth wing of L'Oeuvre Française before he went on to lead Troisième Voie.

The pair lost an appeal against the ban on their organisations to the Constitutional Council in 2013 but continued to run a website called Jeune Nation (Young Nation) - the name of a party led by Sidos that was banned in 1958 - to publicise far-right activities.

Benedetti, who still describes himself on Twitter as "president against all odds of L'Oeuvre Française", has become the spokesman of another far-right group, the Parti Nationaliste Française (French Nationalist Party), while Gabriac has joined the Catholic fundamentalist organisation Civitas.

Both were convicted of organising a banned demonstration against "anti-white racism" that took place in 2012.

Gabriac's appeal against that conviction goes to court on 20 June.

Attacks on university occupations

Far right attacks occupation at Montpellier University

While the National Front - now rebaptised the National Alliance - has distanced itself from open anti-Semites and street-fighters, there were a number of attacks on left-wing students occupying universities in protest at higher education reform earlier this year.

In the most notorious incident, masked and hooded activists carrying batons drove protesters out of a lecture hall at Montpellier University.

The dean and a professor were later suspended and charged in relation to the incident.

In Paris six people were arrested during an attack on an occupation of Tolbiac university and earlier men armed with iron bars and making Nazi salutes attacked students at a high school.

A police source told Ouest France newspaper that the Tolbiac attackers were "ultra-right" and claimed that the violence was revenge for an earlier "ultra-left" attack, without giving any details of that alleged incident.

The Antifa movement has only a few hundred followers in France but anarchist activists, sometimes known as the Black Bloc, have clashed with police on a number of demonstrations against government policy recently.