Far-right essayist Alain Soral, who appeared in court in Switzerland on Wednesday over homophobic remarks, told the hearing that he was himself the victim of “harassment” by the LGBTQ community.
The writer, a 64-year-old French-Swiss citizen now living in the western Swiss city of Lausanne, was sentenced in April by the regional attorney general to three months behind bars for “defamation, discrimination and incitement to hatred.”
That ruling came after Alain Soral — a pen name for the controversial writer whose real name is Alain Bonnet — appeared in an online video attacking Swiss journalist Cathy Macherel of the Tribune de Geneve newspaper, who had written an article about him in 2021.
Macherel had filed a complaint over the video, where Soral described her as a “fat lesbian activist for migrants” and as “queer” — a word he said was synonymous with “degenerate”.
The attorney general, who under Swiss law has the power to unilaterally impose sentences of up to six months in prison, ruled at the time that Soral’s comments were “profoundly homophobic” and amounted to an “incitement to discrimination”.
Soral, who has already faced around 20 convictions in France, mainly over charges of incitement to hatred and defamation, opposed the Swiss sentence, and the case was pushed to a Lausanne court for Wednesday’s one-day hearing.
Dressed in jeans and sneakers, Soral provided lengthy responses to questions, with the judge repeatedly asking him to slow down.
“I have been the target of a smear campaign, of harassment, especially by the Tribune de Geneve and the LGBTQ community” in Switzerland, he charged.
He acknowledged his comments in the video had been made in a somewhat agitated state, but said he did not believe they were “injurious”.
Soral said Macherel’s article had been the last in a series “attacking me ever since I arrived in Lausanne” in 2019, and stressed the video should be seen as his “right to reply”.
He insisted that he had moved to Switzerland three years ago not to conduct a political battle but to write “in peace”.
Soral’s lawyer Pascal Junod told AFP it was a matter of freedom of expression and said the defence will request “an acquittal”.
Among his most recent convictions, the author was ordered by a French court in September to pay 15,000 euros ($15,750) in damages to anti-racism organisations over a rap video deemed anti-Semitic.
And last February, he saw the European Court of Human Rights reject his appeal of a 2016 conviction over a Holocaust-denying drawing on his website.