PARIS — Far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of inciting racial hatred for comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children in 2020.

A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of more than $11,000 and several thousand additional dollars in damages to anti-racist groups. He said he would appeal.

“I am once again a victim of political justice,” Zemmour told reporters, adding, “I absolutely do not regret” the remarks.

Zemmour, who has already been convicted of two hate speeches, was tried in November for “public insult” and “incitement to hatred or violence” against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious.

Samuel Thomas, president of Homes of Friends, a network of associations against racism, said the sentence was “very light”.

“We had hoped that he would be disenfranchised,” Thomas said. “Thus Eric Zemmour will be able to pursue his political career.”

He added: “When you incite racial hatred, you are also responsible for crimes committed by far-right thugs.”

Zemmour, a 63-year-old former television pundit who is running in France’s April presidential election, is attracting audiences with his anti-Islamic and anti-immigration invective. He is seen as one of the main challengers to centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who polls show is the favourite.

Zemmour is a descendant of Berber Jews from Algeria. He was born in France in 1958 to parents who had come from the North African country, then a French colony, a few years earlier.

The case involved comments he made in 2020 on French television channel CNews about children migrating to France without parents or guardians, calling them thieves, murderers and rapists who cost money. money in the country.

Zemmour was not present in court for his trial or the verdict. In a statement in November, he denounced “an attempt to intimidate” prosecutors and anti-racist groups. He stood by his comments and said political debate does not take place in the courts.

The presidential candidate also has an appeal trial on Thursday for contesting crimes against humanity – which is illegal in France – for having argued during a television debate in 2019 that Marshal Philippe Pétain, head of the collaborationist government of Vichy during the Second World War, had saved France. Holocaust Jews.

A court acquitted him last year, saying Zemmour’s comments denied Pétain’s role in the extermination, but that Zemmour spoke in the heat of the moment.

Zemmour has repeated similar comments in recent months and lawyers challenging his acquittal plan to cite that point as evidence on appeal.

He was previously convicted of inciting racial hatred after justifying discrimination against blacks and Arabs in 2010, and of inciting religious hatred for anti-Islamic remarks in 2016. He was ordered to pay court costs and a fine of $5,660.

Information for this article was provided by Nicolas Garriga of The Associated Press.

Lawyer Arie Alimi, representing the Human Rights League, responds to reporters at the Paris courthouse, in Paris, Monday, January 17, 2022. Zemmour, who already has two hate speech convictions, was tried in November for “public insult” and “incitement to hatred or violence” against a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious origin. The prosecutor requested a fine of 10,000 euros (more than 11,000 dollars) against him. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Photo Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gives a press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of inciting racial hatred for 2020 comments he has done on unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Photo Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour arrives to give a press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of incitement to racial hatred for 2020 comments he made on unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Photo Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gives a press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of inciting racial hatred for 2020 comments he has done on unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Photo Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour responds to journalists before giving a press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of incitement to racial hatred for 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Photo Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour gives a press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of inciting racial hatred for 2020 comments he has made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Photo Far-right presidential candidate Eric Zemmour responds to journalists before giving a press conference at the headquarters of the Foreign Press Association, in Paris, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Zemmour was found guilty on Monday of incitement to racial hatred for 2020 comments he made about unaccompanied migrant children. A Paris court ordered Zemmour to pay a fine of 10,000 euros (over $11,000) and several thousand euros in damages to anti-racist groups. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)