A French far-right activist will stand trial in a French court on Tuesday after being charged with incitement to terrorism and aggravated assault, based on evidence gathered during an investigation by Al Jazeera.
Rémi Falize, 33, a former leading member of the Lille branch of the far-right group Generation Identity, will appear at the Tribunal de Grande Instance (High Court) in the northern city of Lille.
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He is charged with violence committed with a group of people in Lille in January 2018 and with incitement to a terrorist act later that month.
Two others also featured in the Al Jazeera investigation will also go on trial for lesser charges.
Falize was filmed by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter at the Citadelle bar, Generation Identity’s headquarters in Lille, declaring that his dying wish would be to drive a car into a crowded Lille market popular with Muslims.
Al Jazeera’s undercover reporter also recorded Falize assaulting a 13-year-old girl outside a bar in the city centre.
The declaration and the assault were included in a two-part documentary, Generation Hate, released in December 2018.
It followed a six-month undercover operation, during which a reporter from Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit infiltrated the Lille branch of Generation Identity.
The potential sentence for the assault charge is three years in prison and a 45,000-euro ($53,300) fine. The terrorism charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and a 75,000-euro ($88,800) fine.
Falize was filmed at the Citadelle describing how his dying wish would be to go on a shooting spree at a mosque or drive a car into the Wazemmes market in Lille, a place popular with Arabs and Muslims.
He says in the documentary: “The day that I find out I’ve got a terminal illness, dude, I get a weapon, and I go sow carnage … A mosque, whatever … even a car-ramming, I take my car and bam! There we go!
“Next to that, Charlie Hebdo will be like dog’s p***.”
Falize said Wazemmes market “is where all the ‘r*******’ of Lille go. If you take your car there on a Sunday, it’ll be a massacre”.
“I’ll leave my ID card … like the jihadists do … and then bam! I f*** all your mamas. Right into 5th gear. If I manage to survive the first carnage, I’ll do it again, I swear to you.”
The documentary also shows Falize, wearing plastic-reinforced leather gloves, striking a 13-year-old girl four times on the head outside a pub in Lille’s main nightlife district.
The assault came after a group of teenagers approached Falize and his friends and asked for a cigarette. Falize’s friend pushed one of the teenagers and the doorman at the bar pepper-sprayed them.
“I swear to Mecca, don’t hit me,” the girl pleaded.
Falize replied: “What to Mecca? I f**k Mecca.”
Following the assault, Falize talked about the attack.
“Girl, or no girl, I couldn’t give a f**k. They’re just Arabs,” he said.
Two others on trial
Besides Falize, two other far-right activists will be on trial.
Guillaume Dumont St Priest, 32, from Saumur, western France, is charged with assault, involving the use of, or threat to use, a weapon in Lille.
Etienne “Le Roux” Vanhalwyn, 24, from Douai, near Lille, is charged with assault committed with a group in Lille. He is also charged with public incitement to racial, ethnic or religious hatred.
Shortly before the assault, Vanhalwyn was filmed making a toast to the Nazi party in a bar with other far-right activists.
Generation Identity’s growing popularity
Generation Identity is one of Europe’s fastest-growing far-right movements. Founded in France eight years ago, it now has branches in Italy, Austria, Germany and the United Kingdom.
It is estimated to have thousands of members and tens of thousands of online followers across Europe.
The group advocates defending “the identity and culture of white Europeans” from what it calls the “great replacement” by immigration and “Islamisation”.
In its investigation, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit revealed evidence of close links between its activists and key figures in Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, France’s most prominent far-right political party which has since changed its name to the National Rally.
In the documentary, two members of the European Parliament, Christelle Lechevalier and Sylvie Goddyn, are seen visiting the Citadelle and expressing support for Generation Identity.
After the documentary was broadcast, Martine Aubry, the mayor of Lille, called for the Citadelle to be shut down, which authorities have so far not done.