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Real Madrid’s Benzema sues far-right activist over apparent terrorism slurs

Karim Benzema has taken legal action against Damien Rieu, a major figure in the far-right party Reconquête, over two tweets posted in 2020.

Update:
Karim Benzema has taken legal action against Damien Rieu, a major figure in the far-right party Reconquete, over two tweets posted in 2020.
JAVIER GANDULDIARIO AS

Karim Benzema is in the global headlines after his extra-time penalty against Manchester City sent Real Madrid into the Champions League final on Wednesday, following a dramatic late comeback by Los Blancos.

Far-right activist Rieu accused of defamation over Benzema posts

In his native France, however, the soccer player is also in the news because he has begun legal action against Damien Rieu, a major figure in the far-right political party Reconquête (‘Reconquest’). As has been reported by the French newspaper Le Parisien, Benzema is suing Rieu for defamation in relation to two tweets posted by the activist in 2020.

In the first tweet, published on 23 October 2020, Rieu wrote: “It’s interesting to discover that Benzema visits the imam Nourdine Mamoune, who has just been investigated [in relation to the killing of secondary-school teacher Samuel Paty by an Islamist terrorist].”

The tweet was accompanied by a picture featuring Benzema, a practising Muslim, and Mamoune, who was never charged with any involvement in the murder. “I can’t wait for the courts to take an interest in the financing of the mosques in Bron [the region Benzema is from],” Rieu added.

A month later, on 22 November 2020, Rieu again took aim at Benzema on social media. On this occasion, he posted an image in which the striker can be seen lifting his index finger into the air, a gesture considered in Islam as an expression of faith.

Alongside the photo of Benzema, Rieu published images of several terrorists also raising their index fingers upwards. According to experts, the terrorist organisation Islamic State has attempted to appropriate the gesture. “I think Benzema wants to send us a message,” Rieu wrote above the images. Both this tweet and his earlier post remain on his Twitter profile.

“His last tweet compares Benzema with a terrorist”

Benzema’s lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, has accused Rieu of “fuelling hate”. “His last tweet compares Benzema with a terrorist. Do we have to wait for another tragedy to occur before reacting?” Cormier said.

Rieu has been summoned to a court hearing in Lyon on 23 May. “Karim wants to shut me up… Tell him I’ve won all my cases,” he said in quotes published by Le Parisien. His lawyer said: “I don’t want to talk about the matter in detail yet, but from what I can see from the court summons, it seems very difficult to characterise this case as defamation.”

Reconquête leader clashed with Zidane ahead of French election

Reconquête is a political party launched in December 2021 by the anti-immigration politician Éric Zemmour, who was a candidate in April’s French presidential elections.

During the campaign, Zemmour was kicked out of the Aix-en-Provence sports complex founded by French soccer great Zinedine Zidane, who is the son of Algerian immigrants. Benzema, who played under Zidane during the latter’s two spells as head coach of Real Madrid, is also of Algerian descent.

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