PARIS, Nov. 21 — The French government ordered the Paris prosecutor on Friday to bring charges of contempt of court against a convicted Muslim conman who asked for one of his judges to be disqualified because she was Jewish.
Justice Minister Dominique Perben ”wants this case to be an example in the face of such infamy and its originator to be severely punished,” his office said in a statement.
Perben’s decision was the government’s latest tough reaction to anti-Semitism in France, which was shocked by the firebombing of a Jewish school near Paris last weekend. President Jacques Chirac has pledged to fight anti-Jewish hatred vigorously.
The Paris daily Le Monde reported on Wednesday that the 32-year-old Tunisian had appealed against a conviction for fraud and attempted blackmail against his former employer saying the Jewish judge had sympathised with the firm’s Jewish owner.
”Given the current geopolitical context, it is very hard to believe that the judge, Mme X (of the Jewish faith) will approach this affair with impartiality,” Le Monde quoted the man as saying.
An appeals court rejected his request this month and fined him 750 euros, provoking the Jewish judge to protest that that court should not have even considered hearing such a ”shocking, revolting and scandalous” appeal in the first place.
Prosecutors will now investigate the case to see whether to bring charges against him.
French Jewish officials have complained that anti-Semitism has been rising not only in terms of physical attacks on Jewish people and property, but also in an increasing frequency of openly anti-Jewish insults and comments.
French officials say most anti-Semitic attacks seen in the past two or three years have been committed by Muslim youths angered by Israeli-Palestinian violence.
France has about five million Muslims, mostly of North African origin, and 600,000 Jews. Both minorities are the largest of their kind in Europe.