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Galliano must wait 11 weeks for verdict on anti-semitic abuse charges

Judges will deliver judgment on September 8 after a seven-hour hearing in which Mr Galliano¿s defence lawyer pleaded for acquittal on charges of insulting language but the prosecution demanded fines of ¿10,000.

Former Dior designer John Galliano arrives at the Paris court house charged with hurling anti-Semitic slurs in a Paris cafe, allegations that shocked the fashion world and cost him his job. Thibault Camus / AP Photo
Former Dior designer John Galliano arrives at the Paris court house charged with hurling anti-Semitic slurs in a Paris cafe, allegations that shocked the fashion world and cost him his job. Thibault Camus / AP Photo

After a day of drama in an austere judicial setting far removed from international catwalks, the designer John Galliano must wait 11 weeks for a verdict on charges of hurling antisemitic abuse during drunken rants.

The judges will deliver judgment on September 8 after a seven-hour hearing in which Mr Galliano's defence lawyer pleaded for acquittal but the prosecution demanded fines of €10,000 (Dh52,358).

The 50-year-old British couturier stood trial at the striking Palais de Justice, close to Notre-Dame cathedral in central Paris, on Wednesday. He was accused of subjecting a couple, and on another occasion a woman, to insulting language in the same fashionable Parisian bar.

Mr Galliano was arrested in February when Géraldine Bloch, a curator at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris, complained he had called her "Jewish bitch" and also abused a male friend.

Another woman then told the authorities of an outburst aimed at her in the same bar, La Perle, in the historically Jewish Marais district of the French capital, in October last year.

The court also viewed a video of a third instance in which Mr Galliano, visibly intoxicated, was heard telling two Italian women: "I love Hitler," and that their parents could have been gassed in Nazi death camps.

In his own words and through his lawyer, Aurélien Hamelle, Mr Galliano apologised to those he had offended but insisted that the effects of his addiction to alcohol and medication meant he had no recollection of what had happened.

"All my life I have fought against prejudice, intolerance and discrimination, having been subjected to it myself," he told the court. "I do not have these views and I have never held them."

He said his triple addiction to alcohol, Valium and sleeping pills began in 2007 after the death of a close friend. He also used them to cope with the pressures of his work as creative director at the fashion house Dior, which summarily dismissed him after the film footage surfaced.

Mr Hamelle said the designer had repeatedly apologised "unreservedly" for his behaviour and sought treatment for his addictions in the US and Switzerland. He now wished to have the chance to "rebuild himself professionally and personally".

After the video was shown to the court, Mr Galliano, dressed in black with his long hair trailing behind his back, said: "In the video, I see someone who needs help, who is very vulnerable. It is a shell of John Galliano, pushed to the edge."

Ms Bloch told the court she never wanted the incident to "create such a media storm" but felt she had no choice but to file a complaint. She described a 45-minute tirade in which Mr Galliano repeatedly used the word "Jewish". "He said it at least 30 times," she said. "It was almost non-stop."

Other witnesses disputed her account but Ms Bloch's friend, Philippe Virgitti, who was with her at the time of the incident, confirmed a written statement in which he said the designer had called him a "f****** Asian bastard".

Ms Bloch sought symbolic damages of €1, her lawyer said, and also wanted trial reports to appear in the fashion magazines Elle and Vogue and the leading French daily newspaper Le Figaro.

In the event, Mr Galliano's celebrity status predictably ensured vast international media coverage, with correspondents of Elle and other publications tweeting updates from the court.

The complainant in the first incident, Fatiha Oummeddour, 47, did not attend court. In her statement, she said a drunken Mr Galliano had called her a "f****** ugly Jewish bitch". Ms Oummeddour is in fact of Arab origin.

Mr Galliano, who has not worked since his dismissal by Dior, is charged with "public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity".

Prosecutors argued that references to the influence of alcohol and drugs represented only an explanation for the designer's conduct, not an excuse. The charges carry a potential six-month jail sentence but the prosecution made no request for a custodial punishment.

* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse