Free Speech Threatened? Woman Who Insulted French President Faces Trial

A French woman from Saint-Omer in northern France was charged for allegedly insulting French President Emmanuel Macron on social media, describing him as a “piece of filth.”

According to Mehdi Benbouzid, Saint-Omer’s prosecutor, French authorities arrested the woman and held her in custody after the administrative office of the local government filed a complaint against her over a social media post. 

The arrest comes when French President Emmanuel Macron faces one of the most significant challenges in his presidency after passing the controversial pension reform and raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 without a parliamentary vote, sparking massive protests nationwide.

The complaint focused on the Facebook post the woman allegedly made on March 21. It was made the day before Macron spoke in an interview to defend his controversial pension reforms.

"This piece of filth is going to address you at 1:00 pm... it's always on television that we see this filth," the woman wrote in her Facebook post.

The woman, named Valerie by a regional newspaper La Voix du Nord, stands accused of violating a law that bans "insulting the president of the republic.” She’s expected to face trial on June 20, according to local prosecutors.

"They want to make an example of me," the woman told La Voix du Nord, the first to report on the woman’s case.

Reports say she was surprised when she heard a knock on the door on the morning of March 28th, only to find that police had come to arrest her.

"I asked them if it was a joke; I had never been arrested," the woman said. "I am not public enemy number one."

The woman, in her 50s, also reportedly supported the Yellow Vest protests that shook France in 2018-2019 and challenged Macron during his first term as President.

The months-long demonstration against his controversial reforms in the country’s pension system drew an estimated 740,000 protesters across the country, including the capital Paris. Unions have announced a new set of protests and strikes starting April 6th.

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