Jailing of ex French Foreign Legion chief over anti-migrant rally ‘could stir revolt’

© Philippe Huguen
The French government made a mistake detaining General Christian Piquemal during anti-migrant protests in Calais, as many people are aware there are a lot of illegal migrants who have broken French law by arriving in the country, experts say.

An anti-migrant rally banned by the French government took place in the town of Calais on Saturday. The rally was organized by the PEGIDA movement. Several protesters were arrested. A former commander of the French Foreign Legion General Christian Piquemal, 75 - who spoke at the rally - was among those taken into custody. All could face up to a year in prison and should have appeared in court on Monday in Boulogne-sur-mer. However the appearance of Piquemal has been postponed after the retired general was taken to the hospital.

Yvan Blot, former member of the National Front and European Parliament, and a friend of the General told RT he was surprised by the arrests in Calais. In his view, many of the migrants broke the law to getting into France, but remain free, whilst those who came to rally against the situation get arrested.

“General Piquemal is a friend of mine, and I am a former member of parliament for the constituency of Calais. So I know the situation in Calais.  It is [a big] scandal in fact. I am very shocked,” he said. In Blot’s opinion “the government made a real mistake.”  

Many people are now speaking out in defense of Christian Piquemal; that’s “because two thirds of the citizens in France” are against the number of the immigrants allowed into the country, said Blot.  

“They are not against foreigners,” he said. “But they think there are too many immigrants and the majority of them come here in [violation] of French law.”

“A lot of people who are from the right, or from the left, who think there are too many immigrants; a lot of them – not all naturally – [commit] crimes. If you go to French prisons, you will see the majority of the people are very often foreigners who are illegally in our country,” he added.

Former MEP Blot suggests it’s unlikely the retired four-star general would get a prison term.

“If it was the case, there could be a big revolt within the French population, perhaps within the army, because General Piquemal … is the glory of the French army,” he said. “It would be a big mistake for the government after the arrest to put him into the jail for a long time.”

Nicolas Dhuicq, a member of the National Assembly of France, says the case got a lot of public support because people “know that reality is difficult,” but they also “know the General needs to be respected.”

“You need to respect the function of the retired four-star general who commanded the most brilliant of all French units,” he added.

“What surprises me is the way he was arrested, because the Foreign Legion is not a regular unit, as you know, it’s the pride of all the French Army... The government would have been wiser to do things in a much more honorable manner than this way on the streets,” the MP said.

READ MORE: Ex-French Foreign Legion commander arrested at anti-Islam rally, due in court on Monday

In Dhuicq’s view, the government applies double standards in dealing with pro- and anti-refugee demonstrations.

“The second thing which is infuriating people is that you have the feeling that, when you demonstrate against Calais and immigration, you’re brutally arrested; and when you demonstrate for it, everything is open and tolerated,” he told RT.

According to Dhuicq, the growing anti-refugee sentiment spreading among all sections of society is not a question of the right and left, but rather the way people in France feel.

“We are paying the fact that we are following the Americans in their totally disgraceful politics in the Middle East,” he said. “The best thing to do will be to lift the embargo on Syria, because the embargo is destroying businesses in Syria and forcing people to migrate. So the right answer is, again, for France to have true French sovereign foreign policy.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.