A leading anti-racism group in France has for the first time backed a defendant who claims to have been assaulted for being white on the Paris metro.
The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, or Licra, as it is known in France, has taken an active role in condemning those accused of the attack.
Licra vice-president Philippe Schmidt told French radio station RFI: "They came after him because of the colour of his skin. The guy is white, the guy is French, and that's why they came after him."
The court heard on Friday how a 29-year-old man attacked a white man on the Paris metro, calling him “sale Français” (dirty Frenchman) and “sale blanc” (dirty white), reported France24.
Racism in France has hit headlines in the past six months. A report published earlier in March by the the country’s racism watchdog stated that levels of intolerance in the country were a "real concern."
They noted also a steep rise in the number of racist and xenophobic acts, specifically pointing out that Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism exploded by 30% and 58% respectively in the past year, reported The Local.
They acknowledged part of the reason for an increase in racism came about after Islamist extremist Mohamed Merah killed seven people, including three Jewish children in March last year. The anti-Islamic film was also named as contributing to tensions, however it was noted that these things were not just to blame.
As many as 201 anti-Muslim acts were recorded by the Observatory of Islamophobia in 2012, an increase of 28% compared with 2011. Most recently, a new mosque near Paris was daubed with racist graffiti including Nazi swastikas.
Amid increasing racial tensions in French society, the Licra vice-president was keen to distance himself from far-right groups, saying "They have a very archaic and extremist view of society. They think it should be French, white and Catholic. That's not the way I see the world."