The Vaud Cantonal Court has sent Alain Soral to prison. It ruled that the far-right ideologue, by calling a journalist a “fat lesbian”, should be sentenced for discrimination and incitement to hatred.
The Franco-Swiss writer had initially been convicted of defamation at the first instance in 2022, and received a day’s fine. However, the Vaud public prosecutor’s office lodged an appeal and won the case at the end of last week’s appeal.
The sentence handed down by the cantonal court amounts to 60 days’ imprisonment, said Vincent Derouand, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, on Monday, confirming a report by Swiss public radio RTS. The essayist, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Monday, can still appeal to the Federal Court.
Soral, whose real name is Alain Bonnet, was on trial for comments he made about a journalist from La Tribune de Genève and 24 heures. After she wrote an article in 2021 that was not to his liking, Soral posted a video online in which he called the journalist a “fat lesbian” and a “queer activist”, implying that the latter term meant “degenerate”.
According to the public prosecutor’s office, these comments are not just defamatory. “These are not just words; they are messages. Mr. Soral has hatred and contempt for homosexuals,” said Eric Kaltenrieder, the public prosecutor.
Kaltenrieder had asked for three months’ imprisonment as part of a “penal logic” to “dissuade the defendant from re-offending”, since Soral had already been convicted on some 20 occasions in France, largely for offences of provocation to hatred, defamation and anti-Semitic insult.
Kaltenrieder also drew on a new provision in the Criminal Code approved by Swiss voters in February 2020. It now makes it possible to punish calls for discrimination or violence based on sexual orientation, in the same way as discrimination based on ethnicity, religion or origin.
For his part, Soral acknowledged that he had made “somewhat virulent comments”. The resident of Lausanne, where he has lived since 2019, nevertheless assured the public that he was “not a militant homophobe, as the public prosecutor would have us believe”.
His lawyer denounced “a rather appalling inquisitional trial”. He added: “It’s the man we want to judge and not his few words of reaction on the spot, a response from the shepherd to the shepherdess.”
Kaltenrieder said on Monday that he was “pleased to note” the Court of Appeal’s decision and added that the verdict established “cantonal jurisprudence” on the application of the criminal law against discrimination and incitement to hatred on grounds of sexual orientation.
Soral’s lawyer, Pascal Junod, was not yet available on Monday for comment. In particular, he could not say whether his client would now be taking his case to the Federal Court.
LGBTQ associations were also pleased with the outcome. “We welcome a strong signal that not everything is allowed in Switzerland, that there are limits to hatred”, said Gaé Colussi, head of French-speaking Switzerland at Pink Cross, when contacted by news agency Keystone-SDA. “We mustn’t forget that this kind of comment has direct and worrying consequences for the LGBTIQ community.”
Pink Cross, along with the Swiss lesbian organisation, Vogay and Lilith, also noted in a joint press release that the ruling was “a crucial step in the application of the article of the penal code” punishing homophobia. This new standard has already led to convictions in Switzerland, but without the same media coverage as the Soral case, noted Colussi.
Source : SWI