Obscene gesture earns French minister PM's scolding

France's combative Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti was roundly condemned Wednesday for repeatedly using an offensive hand gesture in parliament in the direction of an opposition lawmaker.

Political opponents and allies, right up to his boss, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, took issue with his behaviour, with some demanding his resignation.

Borne, her advisors told AFP, dressed down her minister in a telephone call, saying his behaviour had "no place in parliament".

The offending gesture known as a "bras d'honneur" ("arm of honour") is a French way of showing hostility with an obscene connotation, comparable to "giving the finger" in other parts of the world.

Dupond-Moretti committed the act -- which consists of bending one arm into a v-shape and placing the fist of the other in the angle -- twice during remarks by Olivier Marleix, the leader of the opposition conservatives Les Republicains in parliament.

Marleix provoked the justice minister's ire by listing names of President Emmanuel Macron's political allies who had been charged or convicted in criminal probes, or were under investigation.

That list included Dupond-Moretti, who has been ordered to stand trial in a conflict-of-interest case.

Faced with widespread indignation Dupond-Moretti later apologised, saying he "regrets" the gesture which, he added, had not actually been aimed at Marleix but at the "disrespect of the presumption of innocence".

- 'Duty to be exemplary' -

Marleix on Wednesday called on Macron to "do the right thing" following what he called "a scandalous gesture" and "an insult to national representation".

Government spokesman Olivier Veran reminded his cabinet colleague Wednesday "that we must all show exemplary behaviour".

This, he said, meant that "we must behave even better in a public debate than we do in our daily lives".

Veran added that Macron had made no reference to the incident at Wednesday's cabinet meeting.

Socialist member of parliament Jerome Guedj said he "can't see how the head of government can keep a minister whose attitude contradicts the duty to be exemplary" and accused Borne of granting Dupond-Moretti "a kind of impunity".

Socialist party boss Olivier Faure said that "in any other democracy the prime minister would have asked for him to resign".

Other French politicians have used the same gesture, or "the finger", in public over the years.

They include Gerard Longuet, a former defence minister, in response to a journalist's question about Algeria in 2012, former Greens deputy Noel Mamere in parliament after Greenpeace activists entered the chamber, and former Socialist deputy and National Assembly president Henri Emmanuelli, who objected with "the finger" to a remark by the then-prime minister Francois Fillon.