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French Court Finds Man Guilty of Cartoons Portraying Macron as Hitler Over COVID-19 Policies

© REUTERS / COSTAS BALTASFrench President Emmanuel Macron looks on while delivering a statement during the 8th MED7 Mediterranean countries summit, in Athens, Greece, September 17, 2021.
French President Emmanuel Macron looks on while delivering a statement during the 8th MED7 Mediterranean countries summit, in Athens, Greece, September 17, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 17.09.2021
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Posters on billboards emerged two weeks after Macron announced new COVID-19 related restrictions, including the phased implementation of a coronavirus health pass, compulsory vaccines for healthcare professionals, and the termination of free COVID-19 testing unless by a doctor's prescription.
A French court in the city of Toulon found a 62-year-old former advertising executive guilty of insulting President Emmanuel Macron by portraying him as Adolf Hitler on a billboard in southern France. The conviction of Michel-Ange Flory was tweeted on Friday.
Flori was fined 10,000 euros (over $11,700) by the court for displaying an image of Macron that looked like the Nazi leader.
According to Flori's statement, the court's decision was "unexpected," and that "the right to caricature was buried today in Toulon." He also added that he was going to appeal the decision.
According to Euronews, Flori owns over 600 billboards in the southern Var department, two of which he reserves for himself and uses to display "tweets in 4X3," as he puts it.
Macron was pictured, on one poster put up in July, in a Nazi uniform with a small mustache, just days after the government revealed plans to implement a so-called COVID-19 "health pass."
The inscription in French read: "Obey. Get vaccinated.”
Flori released another billboard, this time picturing Macron with French wartime leader Philippe Petain, who surrendered to the Nazis in 1940, and wearing the same distinctive cap. An investigation into the poster is underway.
The French crime of "insulting the president of the Republic" was repealed in 2013, following a European Court of Human Rights ruling condemning France. The French head of state is protected from insult and public defamation in the same way that any ordinary citizen is, even if prosecution, sometimes seen as an attack on freedom of expression, is rare.
Prosecutor Laurent Robert stated in court that Flori had shown "an obvious willingness to do harm" in response to a complaint from Macron's LREM party over the poster, according to AFP.

In court, the man reportedly claimed he had a "right to use humor," while his lawyer reportedly said after the verdict that Macron's pledges to defend freedom of expression do not "extend to his own august person."

While under investigation, however, Flori put up another poster, this time comparing Macron to Louis XVI, France's last monarch, who was guillotined in 1793.
The billboard owner last week announced his upcoming trial as if it were a boxing match.
Flori reportedly has a criminal history, including convictions for theft and for assaulting public officers.
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