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AFP
April 30, 2021

French soldiers face sanctions after ‘civil war’ warning

World

AFP
April 30, 2021

PARIS: A group of French soldiers, including semi-retired officers and generals, face punishments ranging from forced full retirement to disciplinary action after signing an open letter warning about the risk of "civil war" in France, the chief of staff said on Wednesday.

The open letter, published by right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles last week, predicted that failure to act against "suburban hordes" -- or residents of mainly immigrant suburban areas -- and other groups who "scorn our country" will lead to "civil war" and deaths "in the thousands".

The some 20 generals who signed the letter -- who are close to retirement but who could be recalled to active service -- will appear before a senior military council, armed forces chief of staff General Francois Lecointre told Le Parisian newspaper.

Each one faces being "delisted" and thus "put into immediate retirement", Lecointre said, adding it would be President Emmanuel Macron who would take the decision and sign a decree on their dismissal.

Prime Minister Jean Castex labelled the rare intervention in politics by military figures "an initiative against all of our republican principles, of honour and the duty of the army". Meanwhile, the 18 active soldiers identified -- including four officers -- among the hundreds of signatories will for their part receive "military disciplinary sanctions", added Lecointre.

"The more senior (the person) there more serious the sanctions will be," he added, without specifying the nature of the punishment. "I believe that the higher the responsibilities, the stronger the obligation of neutrality and exemplarity," said Lecointre.

The main instigators of the letter are alleged to have ties to far-right, anti-immigration movements in France. However, Lecointre denied that there was any far-right radicalisation in the army.

"The army is republican, it is not politicised. It is in the image of French society," he said, denouncing an "unacceptable attempted manipulation" of the military by the generals who signed.

The letter went on to say that "laxist" government policies would result in chaos requiring "the intervention of our comrades on active duty in a perilous mission of protection of our civilisational values". "This fantasy of the putsch seems irrelevant to me. There is not the slightest inclination of that kind," said Lecointre.