French Calais rally general in court

Former French General Christian Piquemal (with loudspeaker) at Calais rally. Photo: 6 February 2016Image copyright

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General Christian Piquemal, right, said he was shocked by the police action

A former commander of the French Foreign Legion is due to appear in court accused of helping to organise a banned anti-Islam rally in Calais.

Gen Christian Piquemal was among a dozen people arrested on Saturday after clashes between police and supporters of the anti-Islamic group Pegida.

They were taking part in a Europe-wide demonstration against what they say is the Islamisation of the continent.

Police had told protesters to leave and then fired tear gas to break them up.

The northern port city of Calais is home to thousands of asylum-seekers who are living in a camp known as the “Jungle” while they try to slip illegally into the UK.

Gen Piquemal, who commanded the elite French Foreign Legion for five years, is accused of playing a “principal role” in organising the illegal demonstration. He could face up to a year in prison and a heavy fine if found guilty.

Four others are also due to appear in the court in Boulogne in connection with the protest.

Gen Piquemal was one of about 150 Pegida supporters who had gathered in Calais chanting slogans such as “We must not let Calais die” and “Calais is part of France”.

At the time of his arrest, Gen Piquemal said he was “shocked” that officers had broken up the protest during the singing of the national anthem.

“I expected you to be at attention, singing with us but not one of you opened your mouth,” he told them.

French authorities had banned all rallies in Calais “regardless of the organisers”.

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