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French left-wing hopeful on ice after domestic violence ruling

By AFP - Dec 13,2022 - Last updated at Dec 13,2022

LILLE, France — A prominent young leader of France’s hard-left party was handed a suspended four-month prison sentence on Tuesday for slapping his wife, prompting a parliamentary exclusion from colleagues just as they attempt to mount a viable opposition to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

Adrien Quatennens was removed from his France Unbowed group at the lower-house national assembly of parliament for four months after the ruling, though the party did not call for his resignation.

“True to our commitment to combat violence against women, we owed it to ourselves to collectively take this political decision,” France Unbowed lawmakers said in a statement, adding that Quatennens would have to complete a domestic violence awareness course.

It was the latest of several incidents of domestic violence, sexual harassment or assault that have roiled French political parties in the wake of the #MeToo movement, in particular among left-wing groups that emphasise the need for tougher responses to violence against women.

Quatennens avoided a scrum of journalists via a side door to attend the hearing in the northern city of Lille, where his wife was also present — the couple are in the midst of conflictual divorce proceedings.

After pleading guilty, he was given the suspended prison term for “violence against a spouse” between October and December 2021 as well as for sending “repeated hostile messages”, and also fined 2,000 euros ($2,100) in damages.

Details of the claims were unavailable because the hearing was held behind closed doors.

Lawyer Jade Dousselin said Quatennens would make a statement later Tuesday, but called the sentence “a solemn warning that does not prevent him from returning to the Assembly and fulfilling his elected mandate”.

Several France Unbowed colleagues have also voiced support, but it remains unclear if Quatennens will be able to return — not least after his wife evoked “several years” of “physical and psychological violence” at his hands in a statement to AFP in late November.

“You can’t compare it to guys who hit their wives or who spike a woman’s drink,” said Patrick Proisy, the France Unbowed mayor of Faches-Thumesnil, a Lille suburb, one of around a dozen supporters outside the courthouse.

But women’s activists were outraged when party founder and heavyweight Jean-Luc Melenchon, who narrowly missed out on the second round of this year’s presidential election against Emmanuel Macron, initially backed his protege in a tweet seen as playing down the violence. He has since kept quiet on the case.

“The subject we’re now discussing is what are the conditions and terms of his possible return,” Manuel Bombard, who took up Quatennens’ coordinator role and is set to become party leader, told France Inter radio.

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