French vegan faces terror charge over dead butcher comment

A vegan activist appeared to welcome on social media the killing of a butcher during an attack by a jihadist gunman at the Super U market in Trebes, southwest France

Foix (France) (AFP) – A French vegan activist was set to appear in court on Thursday for allegedly condoning terrorism after writing on social media that “justice” had been served when a butcher was killed during an Islamist attack last week, a legal source told AFP.

The unusual case, being prosecuted under France’s tough anti-terror security laws, is to be heard in the town of Saint-Gaudens in southwest France.

Police on Monday night spotted the Facebook message about the killing of butcher Christian Medves at a Super U supermarket in Trebes last week during a shooting spree by an extremist claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group.

“So then, you are shocked that a murderer is killed by a terrorist,” wrote the vegan cheese maker and animal rights activist, named as Myriam by local media. “Not me. I’ve got zero compassion for him, there’s some justice in it.”

With France mourning the four victims of the gunman’s rampage, the message sparked outrage online and the author later deleted it, but prosecutors decided to press charges for condoning terrorism anyway, the legal source said. 

The charge can be brought against anyone suspected of approving terrorism or commenting on it favourably. Doing so on the internet carries a maximum seven-year jail term and a fine of up to 100,000 euros ($125,000).

“I can understand that you can love and defend animals, but not to the point where you hate humans,” Franck Alberti, a lawyer who is close to the butcher’s family, was quoted as saying by Le Parisien newspaper.

The comment also drew condemnation from the French Butchers’ Confederation which called it “dreadful” and called for respect for Medves, a 50-year-old father of two who was head of the meat section in the Super U.

La Depeche du Midi newspaper published a message from the vegan activist in which she said she had deleted her comment within two hours and thought it was visible only to her friends, not to the public. 

A left-wing French activist who had stood for parliament last June, Stephane Poussier, was handed a one-year suspended jail term on Tuesday over comments he posted on Twitter over the same attack.

Poussier had welcomed the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame, a police colonel who exchanged himself for a hostage but was then killed in an act hailed as heroic.

“Whenever a policeman is shot… I think of my friend Remi Fraisse,” he wrote, referring to an environmental activist killed by a stun grenade fired by police during a 2014 protest over a dam.

“And this time it was a colonel, great! Additionally, it means one less Macron voter,” he added.

President Emmanuel Macron led tributes on Wednesday at a national commemoration for Beltrame.