PARIS — France’s top law enforcement official was convicted yesterday of making racist comments and ordered to pay compensation in a controversy that prompted calls for his resignation — calls ignored by his longtime friend and boss, President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux’s lawyer said he would appeal the conviction in a Paris court for “private insults of a racial nature.’’ He was also fined $900 and ordered to pay $2,400 to an anti-racism group.
Hortefeux was caught on camera making what sounded like anti-Arab remarks, prompting calls for his resignation and lawsuits by anti-racism groups. Hortefeux insists his words were innocent and misconstrued.
A video circulating on the Internet showed Hortefeux at an event last September in southwest France for the governing UMP party, having his picture taken with a young party member of North African origin.
A woman’s voice is heard saying “it’s our little Arab,’’ and Hortefeux is heard saying: “We always need one. When there’s one, that’s all right. It’s when there are a lot of them that there are problems.’’
Hortefeux’s office said later the remark was a reference to the many photos taken at the event.