A criminal court in Normandy has sentenced French Nazi ideologue Vincent Reynouard to two years in jail for denying the Holocaust in Facebook postings.
The case stems from a complaint filed by a Caen-based association that honours Canada’s Second World War soldiers and was attacked in Mr. Reynouard’s postings for its work commemorating the D-Day landings.
“We were expecting to win, but hearing that Reynouard has been sentenced to two years was a great joy,” said Christophe Collet, the French high school teacher who heads Westlake Brothers Souvenir association. It is named after three Toronto brothers – George, Tommy and Albert – who died in combat in June, 1944.
Mr. Reynouard represented himself in the three-hour trial in the city of Coutances, although he was not present for the verdict on Wednesday. The prosecution had asked for a one-year jail sentence. The three-judge panel that convicted him doubled that.
The judges likely considered Mr. Reynouard’s previous convictions on similar charges, said David Chilstein, a criminal law professor at the Sorbonne. But the sentence also may reflect the broad concern in France at rising antisemitism since the killings last month at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket in Paris.
“Prison sentences in freedom-of-speech issues are usually suspended sentences,” Prof. Chilstein said in a telephone interview. “But we are in a context of rampant anti-Semitism, and since the January attacks [in Paris] everyone understands the power of words.” The court wants to appear tough on anti-Semitism.”