Galliano goes on trial in Paris over anti-Semitic rant

22nd June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Fashion designer John Galliano told a French court Wednesday that he suffers from a triple addiction to alchohol, valium and sleeping pills as he stood trial on charges of anti-Semitic abuse.

The 50-year-old couturier -- considered one of the finest fashion designers of his generation -- could face six months in jail and a fine of 22,500 euros ($32,000) if convicted of subjecting cafe patrons to an obscene tirade.

"I have an addiction. I am a recovering alcoholic, a recovering addict," he told the court, after judges read out witness testimomy about his outburst in a bar in Paris fashionable Marais district in February of this year.

He said he began abusing drugs and alcohol in 2007 against backdrop of financial crisis and the death of close friend Steven Robinson. "After every creative high, I would crash, and alcohol helped me escape," he said.

Galliano said he had "no recollection" of having made anti-Semitic remarks,

He looked relaxed in the stately wood-panelled courtroom, dressed soberly in a black jacket and loose silk trousers, long hair brushed back over his shoulders, as presiding judge Anne-Marie Sauteraud read the charges.

He was accompanied by his lawyer Aurelien Hamelle and a burly, bald-headed bodyguard who sat two rows behind him.

An interpreter whispered the proceedings into his left ear as Sauteraud quoted Galliano as having allegedly called a fellow cafe patron a "fucking Asian bastard" and another a "fucking ugly Jewish bitch".

To barely suppressed giggles in the packed court, the judge translated the obscenities into French, then proceeded to read a lengthy and highly detailed report into what allegedly took place at La Perle on February 24.

That was when Galliano was arrested in a drunken state after Geraldine Bloch and Philippe Virgitti alleged he subjected them to a stream of anti-Semitic abuse in the trendy bar in the Marais district of Paris.

Bloch said earlier Wednesday that Galliano had sat next to their table and, for 45 minutes, delivered a string of insults about her appearance.

"First my clothes, then my body, then I was 'dirty'. Then he called me a 'dirty Jew'," Bloch told news channel BFMTV before the hearing.

Another woman, Fathia Oumeddour, 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.

Her complaint was also part of Wednesday's proceedings.

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 posted 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 Christian Dior to sack its illustrious designer, saying his behaviour and language was "particularly odious" and sending shockwaves through the Paris fashion world.

Five people were set to testify on Wednesday, 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 before the trial.

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.

Photographers gathered in front of the packed courthouse and the press gallery was full as the court awaited the arrival of the couturier.

© 2011 AFP

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