Gilles Bourdouleix, a centre-right MP for the Maine-Loire department in western France, was touring a traveller camp where hundreds of caravans were parked illegally when he ranted in front of a reporter, who he later called “a little sh*t” for publishing his words.
Prosecutors had asked for Bourdouleix, who did not attend the Angers court for the ruling, to be given a six-month prison sentence and a 5,000 euro fine for the French crime of praising historic crimes against humanity.
“His behaviour was completely unacceptable,” prosecutor Yves Gambert told the court. “His words were an assault on our values and an incitement to racial hatred.”
The outburst, which Bourdouleix claimed he had “merely muttered through his teeth”, caused a storm of controversy when reported by regional daily Ouest France in July 2013.
He initially denied ever having said the words – until Ouest France published the recording from its reporter’s dictaphone.
The French Human Rights League, two anti-racism organisations and two holocaust memorial groups will be suing Bourdouleix through civil courts.
Traveller, and in particular Roma Gypsy, camps in France have been a particularly sensitive topic in recent years.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was accused in the run-up to the 2012 election (which he lost) of wooing the far-right with an aggressive and controversial bid to close down illegal Roma camps and “repatriate” those living there to Bulgaria and Romania.
Camp dismantlements have continued under the government of Socialist President François Hollande.
Europe’s Gypsies, who have been persecuted for centuries, suffered horrifically at the hands of the Nazis and their allies during the Second World War.
Roma communities refer to the Holocaust as the “Porajmos”, and while the figures are uncertain – many of those killed were murdered indiscriminately – between 220,000 and 1.5 million were killed by death squads and in concentration camps between 1939 and 1945.