Court fines French interior minister for second time in year

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France's interior minister fined earlier this year for a racial insult about a young Arab man was on Friday ordered to pay a symbolic one euro for failing to observe the presumption of innocence in the case of a magistrate.

Brice Hortefeux violated the right to be innocent until proven guilty of a former magistrate suspected of having leaked information to a newspaper about the case of the octogenarian L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.

Bettencourt's daughter had accused a society photographer of exploiting his relationship with her mother to extort a billion euros.

In a radio broadcast on October 17, Hortefeux said the magistrate had access to confidential documents and, according to sources, was feeding them to a journalist.

Responding to Friday's ruling, Hortefeux announced that he intended to appeal and insisted that the ruling was "not definitive" and therefore he was "presumed innocent."

The Sarkozy loyalist was in June ordered to pay a 750 euro- (900 dollar-) fine and 2,000 euros in damages.

A court earlier found Hortefeux's comments about a young Arab man to be "outrageous, if not contemptuous" and stigmatised Arabs solely because of their origin.

Hortefeux had denied that his comments referred to the man's race, saying they referred to people from France's central Auvergne region.

© 2010 AFP

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