Designer Galliano in Paris court over anti-Semitic outburst
Fashion designer John Galliano faced trial Wednesday on charges that he launched anti-Semitic tirades in a Paris bar, which the fallen superstar is expected to blame on drug and alcohol addiction.
The 50-year-old couturier -- considered one of the finest fashion designers of his generation -- could face a sentence of six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros ($32,000) if convicted.
The British designer was arrested on February 24 in a drunken state after a couple in La Perle cafe in Paris's fashionable and historically Jewish Marais district alleged he had subjected them to a stream of anti-Semitic abuse.
Another woman later came forward to say she suffered a similar attack in October last year and then a video surfaced of Galliano insulting someone else in the same bar and declaring "I love Hitler."
Galliano has issued an apology for his behaviour, but insisted it was not anti-Semitic. He has lodged a legal counter-suit against the couple in the first incident, alleging defamation.
But in the footage published online by Britain's Sun newspaper, a visibly drunk Galliano tells another couple in the same Paris bar: "I love Hitler".
He adds: "People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers, would all be fucking gassed."
The release of the video prompted fashion house Dior to sack their star designer, saying his behaviour and language was "particularly odious" and sending shockwaves through the tightly-knit Paris fashion world.
Five people are expected to testify in the trial, including two women who were sat next to him during the February 24 altercation who say they did not hear him say anything anti-Semitic.
But two Italian friends of the woman who was allegedly insulted by Galliano last year are set to confirm her version of events.
Galliano's lawyer has said that the varying testimonies show that there is some doubt about what was actually said.
Galliano himself "does not remember because he was in an altered state," said lawyer Aurelien Hamelle.
What he knows is that his alleged insults "do not reflect what he thinks. He's not anti-Semitic or racist," he said.
The flamboyant designer has "been doing nothing" since his spectacular fall from grace, Hamelle added.
"He's treating his addiction to alcohol and medication. He will think about his professional future" after the trial, he said.
© 2011 AFP