|Steeve Briois (screenshot AFP report)|
In his first political act since taking office, Briois has suspended the grant to the local branch of the Ligue des droits de l’homme (Human Rights League, France - LDH) and ordered the association to vacate the premises it had occupied free of charge under the previous mayor.
"For years, the LDH (in Hénin-Beaumont) has benefited from grants and has been allowed the free use of local government-owned office space," said Briois.
"No lease been had ever been signed between the extreme left association and the previous mayor and the grant was completely illegal."
Hello? The LDH an "extreme left" assocation?
Well apparently so, as far as the FN is concerned because during the recent local election campaign, the president of the Ligue des droits de l’homme - Pas de Calais, Alain Pruvot, had warned "of the danger of the FN" and of the need to "block its way".
"We are quite aware of the danger there could be from the Front National gaining power in Hénin-Beaumont and we want to make voters aware of that," Pruvot said at a press conference back in March.
"We want to counter ideologically the FN and show how dangerous it potentially is."
For Briois, that was tantamout to a non-governmental organisation meddling in politics, and cited a 2002 ruling by the Conseil d'Etat which declared that "organisations that fought a political party whose existence was legally recognised could not be subsidised."
In reality though, Briois was probably just following a line set down by the party's leader, Marine Le Pen, during the run-up to the local elections when she had said in an interview with Le Monde that associations should be "put up against the wall, to show them that they mustn't interfere in the political debate."
As far as the LDH is concerned, the FN's arguments might be legal but they also come "with a whiff of a witch hunt."
"The LDH is a political organisation but not a partisan one," its regional delegate, Georges Voix, said.
"We're not fighting a political party but an ideology."