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CRIME

French police find ‘alarming’ neo-Nazi arms stash

French police discovered an arsenal of weapons including machine guns after arresting four men suspected of belonging to a neo-Nazi group in the eastern Alsace region, officials said Friday.

French police find 'alarming' neo-Nazi arms stash
The back of a French police officer (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Some 200 officers detained the men, aged 45 to 53, at their homes on Tuesday near Mulhouse after intelligence services determined the group’s members took part in a “Jew hunt” during a football match in Strasbourg, prosecutor Edwige Roux-Morizot told a press conference.

They discovered an “alarming” number of guns — 18 legal and 23 illegal — 167 magazines, 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of gunpowder and materials for potentially making explosives, she said.

The bullet equivalent of “at least 120,000 cartridges” was also found, Lieutenant Colonel Yann Wanson of the local police unit said.

France has stepped up its surveillance of far-right extremists in line with an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years, with President Emmanuel Macron visiting a vandalised Jewish cemetery in Alsace in December 2019.

So far investigators have not determined if the men were planning an attack, but anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denial works were found and computer equipment is being analysed, Roux-Morizot said.

They also discovered equipment for making bullets and over €25,000 ($26,800) in cash.

The suspects have been charged with arms trafficking and face up to 10 years in prison.

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POLITICS

French locals urge Macron to eject mayor over child sexual images

A group of villagers in eastern France said on Friday they have asked President Emmanuel Macron to remove their mayor, who refuses to resign despite an investigation into allegations he accessed child sexual images.

French locals urge Macron to eject mayor over child sexual images

Dominique Lott, mayor of the Echenon municipality home to around 800 people, was one of 48 men arrested in mid-November raids across France.

He has acknowledged “some of the acts of which he is accused” ahead of his April trial, Dijon prosecutors said when he was detained.

They added that he possessed “images and videos depicting minors aged five to 15 in suggestive poses, or engaging in sex acts with each other or with adults”.

But the mayor is not required to resign by law, stoking anger among villagers.

By Friday, a petition demanding he step down had gathered almost 600 signatures.

National politicians Adrien Quatennens — an MP accused of striking his wife — and Julien Bayou — the Greens chief who stepped down over accusations of “psychological violence” against a former partner — had quit, so “why not our mayor?”, the signatories asked.

“Only two” village councillors out of 14 have stepped down in protest, said local resident and mother of an eight-month-old boy, Wardia Haya-Cartaut, one of the authors of the letter to Macron.

For its part, the local council said in a statement that “the justice system will take care of the trial, that’s not up to us”.

“Legally speaking, we have no room for manoeuvre,” the council added.

But Haya-Cartaut quotes chapter and verse from the legal code on local government, which allows the French president to recall a mayor.

“Without disrespecting the principle of presumption of innocence, it is in your power to issue a disciplinary measure,” she wrote to Macron alongside two other local mothers.

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