France to shut far-right group after student death

PARIS Sat Jun 8, 2013 3:42pm EDT

1 of 3. French student Clement Meric (3rdR Rear) wears a red scarf over his face as he walks behind a banner which reads, 'Homophobia Kills' to support France's planned legalisation of same-sex marriage, during a demonstration of the anti-gay marriage movement in Paris April 17, 2013. Meric, a student at the prestigious Sciences Po university and a left-wing activist, was beaten up near St. Lazare station Wednesday June 5, 2013 by a group of far-right militants and taken to hospital with head injuries. He was declared dead on Thursday. Picture taken April 17, 2013

Credit: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

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PARIS (Reuters) - France will shut down a fringe far-right youth group after the killing of a leftist student in Paris this week, France's prime minister said on Saturday, reiterating his promise to crack down on fascist groups.

The death of 19-year-old Clement Meric in a clash between ultra-right and far-left youths on Wednesday follows months of street violence from far-right groups over the legalization of gay marriage.

One of five far-right militants being questioned was put under formal investigation on suspicion of violence leading to manslaughter, a source at the Paris prosecutor's office said.

The group to be shut down, the Revolutionary Nationalist Youths, is the militant wing of a broader far-right movement known as the "Third Way".

The leader of the Youths group, Serge Ayoub, told French television that it was a "stupid" move and denied any links to Meric's death. "The Revolutionary Nationalist Youths are in no way implicated by the police in this case ... None have been questioned by police," he said.

The Paris prosecutor had said in an earlier press conference on Saturday that all the suspects under investigation had ties to the Third Way, without specifically mentioning the Youths wing.

"I have asked (Interior Minister Manuel Valls) to immediately begin the procedure ... to proclaim the dissolution of the Revolutionary Nationalist Youths," Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in a statement.

Ayrault said the government was looking into whether other far-right groups could be dissolved and reiterated his promise to "cut into pieces" neo-Nazi and fascist groups in France.

Two people detained earlier were released, according to police sources.

Meric was involved in a fight with tattooed right-wing youths he had been taunting in a typical clash between the two camps. The prosecutor said he died from head injuries sustained in a beating.

French authorities on Friday banned a far-right youth rally that was set for Saturday evening in the southern city of Toulouse.

(Reporting by Chine Labbe and Lionel Laurent; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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