French writer on trial over Rwanda
Journalist Pierre Pean breaks down at his Paris trial, accused of racial hatred in his book on the Rwandan genocide.25 September 2008
PARIS -- French journalist Pierre Pean broke down in tears Wednesday on the second day of his trial for provoking hatred in a book on the Rwandan genocide after he was compared to a famous Holocaust denier.
Pean's book "Noires fureurs, blancs menteurs" (Black furies, white liars) described ethnic Tutsis as prone to lying and deceit, prompting rights group SOS Racisme to file a civil complaint, supported by the French state attorney.
On Wednesday, the former Jewish student leader Benjamin Abtan told the court in Paris the mere mention of Pean's name to survivors of the Rwandan genocide caused them to react in fear.
"In my reference book, that emotion can only recall the effect of the name 'Faurisson' on survivors of the Holocaust" he said, in a reference to convicted French Holocaust-denier, Robert Faurisson.
When he substituted "Jew" for "Tutsi" in Pean's book, Abtan said he was immediately reminded of Hitler's "Mein Kampf".
Rejecting the comparison as "intolerable", the 70-year-old author broke down in tears, causing judges to close the hearing.
SOS Racisme accuses Pean of promoting in the book, released in November 2005, some of the "prejudices in the genocidal ideology" that led to the slaughter of around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.
In it, Pean wrote: "Investigating Rwanda is almost an impossible task given that lies and deceit have been elevated to an art form".
"The first Europeans who had prolonged contact with the Tutsis observed that they were trained in lying", he wrote.
The author of best-sellers on former presidents Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac told the judge Tuesday he considered the court case part of a smear campaign organized by the Rwandan government.
About 30 historians, experts and politicians including former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine will testify during the hearings until Thursday.
The Paris court is expected to give a verdict at a later date.
[AFP / Expatica]