An Al Jazeera investigation has revealed close ties between a violent far-right group in the French city of Lille and Marine Le Pen’s National Front (FN), despite a push by the party to soften its xenophobic and racist image to broaden its appeal with voters.
At least two members of Generation Identity (GI), an anti-Muslim youth movement, held political posts at FN, a new documentary by Al Jazeera titled Generation Hate, revealed on Sunday.
Their enlistment with FN appears to be part of a broader bid by GI to infiltrate Le Pen’s party and shape its policies.
In secretly-filmed footage, Aurelien Verhassel, the 34-year-old leader of GI Lille, claimed he wrote speeches for leaders of the FN, and was shown to have ties to Le Pen’s aide, Sebastien Chenu.
Activists also told our undercover reporter that Verhassel, who has a string of criminal convictions for violence, including a five-month prison sentence for an attack on two North African teenagers, helped GI members find jobs at the FN.
Verhassel, who is appealing that prison sentence, was also filmed telling a Canadian journalist that GI, one of Europe’s fastest growing and most prominent far-right movements, was not interested in winning political office because “we see ourselves in [the National Front’s] ideas”.
WATCH: France: Generation Identity, the far right and racist violence (3:05)
Other far-right activists from Bordeaux, south-western France, also in secretly-filmed conversations, claimed they provided security for FN leaders during the 2017 presidential election, which Le Pen lost to Emmanuel Macron in the runoff, while FN members professed support for a “civil war” during visits to a private bar run by Verhassel, called the Citadelle.
Responding to Al Jazeera, Le Pen denied links between GI and FN, which has since been renamed the National Rally. Verhassel has never worked or written speeches for her party, she added
Source: Aljazeera News