Top French court annuls presidential challenger Zemmour's hate acquittal

FILE PHOTO: First round of the 2022 French presidential election

PARIS (Reuters) - French appeal court judges made errors when overturning an anti-Muslim hate conviction against former French far-right presidential challenger Eric Zemmour and the trial should be held again, the country's highest court ruled on Tuesday.

Zemmour, who won 7% in the first round of France's 2022 election, was convicted in 2020 for public remarks in which he called Muslim women and men wearing traditional religious clothing part of an "invasion" and a "colonization".

Civil rights activists turned to the Cour de Cassation after a 2021 ruling by an appeal court in Paris overturned the 10,000 euros ($10,665) fine penalty against Zemmour for public insult and inciting hatred against Muslims.

Zemmour's lawyer was not immediately available for comment. He had previously said that his client's remarks had been skewed.

An appeals court would have to decide again on the case, the Cour de Cassation added.

The Cour de Cassation reviews lower court rulings on the grounds of legal or procedural errors, but not factual aspects.

Zemmour, who holds other convictions for inciting racial hate, ran for president saying he wanted to save France from a decline that he attributes to uncontrolled immigration and the growing influence of Islam.

($1 = 0.9376 euros)

(Reporting by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Cawthorne)