A far-right commentator has been jailed for 60 days in Switzerland for calling a journalist a “fat lesbian” who is “unhinged” — a sentence that has been hailed by LGBT activists as a victory over intolerance.
Alain Bonnet, a French-Swiss dual national more commonly known as Alain Soral, was handed a custodial sentence by a court in Lausanne on Monday after being convicted of defamation, discrimination, and incitement to hatred.
The offensive remark dated back more than two years ago when Soral took aim at the body image and sexual orientation of Catherine Macherel, a critic of his and journalist for the Swiss French-language newspapers Tribune de Geneve and 24 Heures.
Soral described Macherel in a Facebook video as a “queer activist” who was “unhinged” and labeled her a “fat lesbian.”
The Franco-Swiss writer was initially convicted of defamation last year and was ordered to pay a fine for his transgression. However, the Vaud public prosecutor’s office appealed the ruling, arguing that Soral’s remarks fell under reforms to the Swiss Criminal Code passed back in 2020, which made for derogatory remarks based on sexual orientation to be viewed in the same way as discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, or nationality.
The prosecution’s appeal was successful this week, as Vincent Derouand, a spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office, confirmed that Soral had been sentenced to 60 days’ imprisonment by the Vaud Cantonal Court. He was also ordered to pay legal costs and a hefty fine.
The sentence can still be appealed by the writer to the Federal Court.
The verdict was praised this week by both Macherel and the LGBT community as a victory for tolerance and respect.
“This court decision is an important moment for justice and rights of LGBTQI people in Switzerland,” said Murial Waeger, co-director of the lesbian activist group LOS. “The conviction of Alain Soral is a strong signal that homophobic hatred cannot be tolerated in our society,” she added.
Macherel expressed her satisfaction with the court’s ruling and said Soral had “deliberately targeted me not only with homophobic remarks but by exciting his crowd of supporters.
“He published my photo large on his Equality and Reconciliation site, he spoke with his fans who poured out all their hatred against me, despicable remarks which remained for months on his site.
“This verdict shows that we cannot sow hatred with impunity in our country. It’s reassuring,” she added.
Following the judgment, Soral’s lawyer, Pascal Junod, said his client had been convicted for a “crime of opinion” and for “sinning against the dogmas of single thought.” He confirmed the writer would be appealing the decision to Switzerland’s Federal Court, and refused to rule out taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary.