French general arrested at anti-Islam rally hospitalized, trial postponed - lawyer

The trial of General Christian Piquemal, a respected former French Legion commander who was arrested during Saturday’s anti-migrant rally in Calais, has been postponed after the 75-year-old was hospitalized, his lawyer says.

He was due to appear in court on Monday in the town of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

“General Christian Piquemal will not appear in court today, the state of his health means he can’t attend,” the prosecutor of Boulogne-sur-Mer said, as cited by AFP.

In the morning, General Christian Piquemal was sent to hospital due to health concerns, and is now set to stand trial on May 12, according to his lawyer.

“The police custody lasted two days. I was going to spend this afternoon at the High Court of Boulogne, and then following the state of my health this morning, I was hospitalized,” Piquemal told Ruptly. “The doctor had explained to the prosecutors that he knew that my state of health did not allow me to assume I would be in a good condition, and assure my defense. So my detention was lifted.”

However, four people other scheduled to appear alongside the general will be present, as planned, the prosecutor added.

Another lawyer on the case, Hervé Krych, said the general was dehydrated and suffering from the effects of the cold temperatures in his cell, journalist Louis San reported. Krych added that the general is generally in good shape physically.

He is a strong man,” the lawyer said.

Piquemal was reportedly released until the court hearing in May.

Earlier on Monday, dozens of activists staged a protest in the northern French city of Boulogne-sur-Mer, demanding the release of Piquemal and four other protesters detained with him. The demonstrators blamed the government for failing to release those arrested.

The arrest at the unsanctioned PEGIDA rally in Calais on Saturday was one of 20, and came as clashes erupted between the ‘anti-Islamization’ group and the police in the French port city. 

The 75-year-old general is considered to have played “the main role” in the protest.

Following his release on Monday, Piquemal told Ruptly that he hadn’t been involved in organizing Saturday’s protest.

“It was organized by others,” he said. “I had already called for a dispersion and I left. And it was afterwards that I was taken in.”

Piquemal was charged with “participation in an unlawful assembly which did not dissolve after warning.” Four people in his entourage were also charged with possession of weapons, including a knuckle-duster and a Taser gun.

Yvan Blot, a French politician and friend of the general, told RT that the authorities had made a “big mistake” by arresting Piquemal. He suggested that it would have been correct to invite the general to the local prefecture to discuss the problem, rather than detain him and other protesters.

Nicolas Dhuicq, a member of the National Assembly of France, agreed, saying that the government should have resolved the issue in a “more honorable manner.”

Jean du Verdier, a French army general, told RT that he believes Piquemal will become a flag bearer.

“I admire General Piquemal, who had the courage to participate in a public demonstration at his age. Just like him, I’m totally shocked by what is happening in Calais,” he said. “Calais has been an ulcer for several years, which the local governor is not capable of resolving. This is scandalous.”

“What has shocked me the most was to see General Piquemal, who commanded the Foreign Legion, to be taken into custody by some young law enforcers and treated like a criminal. General Piquemal will become a flag bearer, a symbol of all the people who resist against the paralysis of the public power. I think that, in the end, they have done him a favor. He’ll be remembered for years.”

Tens of thousands took to the streets of 14 European countries on Saturday, protesting against the influx of Muslim migrants.

Some protests turned violent, with clashes starting between demonstrators and police.