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4th Feb 2023

France to punish ex-generals for Islamist 'civil war' letter

  • Paris: Retired and serving French soldiers are meant to stay out of politics (Photo: cedric.chan)

France is preparing to punish ex-generals and acting offers who signed a letter warning of a civil war with Islamists.

"These are unacceptable actions ... There will be consequences, naturally," the French defence minister, Florence Parly, said on France Info radio on Monday (26 April).

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"The military are not there to campaign, but to defend France and protect the French," she added.

"For those who have violated the duty of reserve, sanctions are planned, and if there are active soldiers among the signatories, I asked the chief of staff of the armed forces to apply the rules," Parly said.

According to French law, retired officers could lose their ranks and pensions if they violated their duties.

Acting ones could face court martial and between two to five years in prison.

The letter was signed by 24 retired generals, as well as 80 colonels or captains, 125 lieutenant-colonels or lower-ranked officers, and about 1,000 others.

It was published in the right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles on 21 April - the 60th anniversary of a failed putsch over Algerian independence.

"The hour is grave, France is in peril," they said.

And "the intervention of our comrades on active duty in a perilous mission of protection of our civilisational values" might soon be needed in a "civil war" that could cost "thousands" of lives, they said.

The letter targeted "Islamism and the hordes of the banlieue" - poor neighbourhoods with large migrant populations - as the enemies of France.

It also seized on recent jihadist attacks in the country, such as the murder of school-teacher Samuel Paty for showing Mohammed cartoons last year, to whip up emotion.

"Who could have imagined 10 years ago that a teacher would one day be beheaded on leaving school?," they wrote.

The lead signatory was Christian Piquemal, a former French Foreign Legion commander, who was arrested in 2016 for taking part in an anti-migrant rally in Calais.

Other French ministers and left-wing politicians also condemned the letter.

And Parly reassured the French public that the old men "in their slippers" who signed it posed no threat, because the "immense majority" of serving French officers had not joined them.

But French far-right leader Marine Le Pen voiced support for the malcontents.

She called on the generals to join her in "the battle of France" ahead of presidential elections next year.

France did suffer from "lawless areas, crime, self-hatred and our leaders' rejection of patriotism", she also said on Tuesday.

"[But] these problems can only be solved by politics," she added, in a word of caution.

The first round of French elections is due to take part in April next year.

French president Emmanuel Macron is currently neck-and-neck with Le Pen, with each scoring between 25 percent and 28 percent in polls earlier this month.

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