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French Court Finds Far-Right Politician Guilty of Hate Speech

FILE - French far-right party Reconquete! presidential candidate Eric Zemmour (R) gets ready to deliver a speech in front of the Castle of Villers-Cotterets, in the Aisne department, France, Jan. 15, 2022.

A French court found far-right French presidential candidate and political commentator Éric Zemmour guilty Monday of inciting racial hatred and ordered him to pay more than $11,000 in fines.

Zemmour told a group of foreign correspondents that he stood by his controversial words, insisting he could not have been inciting racial hatred "insofar as unaccompanied minor migrants are not from a separate race."

Monday's case focused on comments that Zemmour made in September 2020 during an interview on French television network CNews about children who migrated to France without parents or guardians.

"They don't belong here," Zemmour had said about the children. "They are thieves. They are murderers. They are rapists. That's all they are. They should be sent back. They shouldn't even come."

Speaking at a news conference Monday, Zemmour stood by his comments and said he would appeal, adding that the court was condemning him for expressing his views.

The former TV pundit, who is running in April's presidential election, is drawing fervent audiences with his anti-Islam, anti-immigration views.

For several weeks last year, opinion polls showed that Zemmour, who has earlier convictions for inciting racial hatred, was coming close to placing second in the presidential poll and facing French President Emmanuel Macron in a runoff. He now ranks fourth in many polls.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.