French far right activists occupy mosque building site

French far right activists occupy mosque building site

POITIERS - Agence France-Presse
French far right activists occupy mosque building site

AFP Photo

About 70 far-right activists occupied for several hours Saturday a building site in the central French city of Poitiers where a mosque is under construction.

During the occupation, which began in the early morning, the demonstrators climbed to the roof and unfurled a banner with the name of their movement.

Condemnation came from the French government which described the action as "hateful provocation, and from the Muslim national umbrella organisation, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), which spoke of its "strong indignation" and condemned an occupation "without precedent in French history." Around midday the demonstrators agreed to leave after negotiations with the local authorities.

A spokesman for the activists, Damien Rieu, confirmed that they were "going calmly to the exit" after "negotiating." "We were planning to stay longer but as we had no intention whatsoever of a physical confrontation we are leaving with the police in a good mood without an unhappy ending," Rieu said.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who is in the Philippines "firmly" condemned a "provocation that reveals an unacceptable religious hatred." Interior Minister Manuel Valls also condemned "hateful and inadmissible provocation" and "questionable confusions" of the group which on its Internet site refers to Charles Martel, who "nearly 1,300 years ago stopped the Arabs at Poitiers." The battle in 732 halted the northwards advance of Islam.

The local authorities said the police would have noted the identities of the occupiers but made no arrests because the action took place at a building site so there was no breaking and entering involved.

The CFCM spoke if its" deep concern in the face of this new form of anti-Muslim violence which shows once again the willingness of small groups to endanger our life together and our national solidarity by incitement to hatred and division."