For several years Yvette “Fanny” Truchelut and her husband ran a hostel for holidaymakers in a rural area of France. In the summer of 2006 she was brought up on charges after requesting that female Muslim guests remove their veils in the common areas of her establishment.
The resulting prosecution, conviction, and fine drove her out of business and forced her into penury. Mme. Truchelut has launched an appeal, making public her ordeal and requesting financial assistance.
Many thanks to Gaia for this translation of Fanny Truchelut’s story:
In 1985, my ex-husband and I (we separated in December 2007 partly as a result of the following events) bought an old, unoccupied summer camp (note: where groups of children used to spend their summer vacations)
I had two objectives:
- to create a home for my family (I have 4 children) to accommodate my children, their spouses and my future grandchildren.
- to finance this enterprise, I turned this house into a ‘gite’ to accommodate holidaymakers. I wanted to create an environment in which conviviality would be paramount.
In December 2004, we opened the house to holidaymakers. My son Antonin set up an Internet site: grandesgouttes.free.fr — which was very active. The orientation that I had taken — a place of hospitality and user-friendliness — was clearly indicated on the site.
From December 2004 to August 2006, that is to say for 1½ years, we successfully rented to holidaymakers. Our enterprise took shape. The holidaymakers who came were in agreement with this principle and I did not encounter any problem; quite the contrary.
The Demiati family arrived at my property on August 11, 2006. They had reserved the accommodation on the Internet. This family had thus seen our site, which gave a clear description of our services:
Communal Area of 70 m2 (living room — dining room) on the ground floor placed free at your disposal, where you can congregate or meet the other tenants of the house.
This room was not available for private rent.
In this family, there were two women, both veiled. For a few seconds I remained immobile on the staircase asking myself what I should say or do. My past experiences, both as a child and a woman, came back to me and I asked Horia Demiati (HD) and her mother to remove their veils in the communal parts of the house, in particular in the room quoted above.
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HD then requested me to return the down payment to her. I went away to look for the cheque which I had not yet cashed, I returned the cheque and the family left.
In requesting that HD remove her veil, I thought of it as an exchange from one woman to another woman. However subsequent events showed me that it was nothing of the sort. All the Demiati family members are militants: HD is treasurer of the CIFE, an organization which militates openly for the wearing of veils in the work place.
I discovered my predicament… in the press in an extremely violent way
A journalist called me on Thursday August 17, 2006, using a well-known tactic of the press; to attack the person interviewed, to comment on the gravity of his act, mentioning on several occasions the consequences (obviously the maximum) to which the person would be likely to be condemned, in short to put the person interviewed in a situation of stress, to make them lose control of the situation. And the tactic worked.
On the following day the journalist published an article in the newspaper Est Républicain of August 18, 2006, an article with this heading on page one:
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION IN A ‘GITE’
The court will not tolerate racial discrimination, but too late, the evil was done.
However, the presumption of innocence is a basic principle of our Law. This principle means that any individual must be presumed innocent of the charges against him until such time as a judgement is made and a sentence decreed (Article 9 of the Declaration of Human rights and the Citizen).
Confirmed by the Security Convention of the European Court of the Human rights.
AFP (Agence France Presse) reprinted the article, and a media outburst ensued.
Following these articles, I received threats, sufficiently serious for me to visit the police station on August 29, 2006. I was in an intense state of stress, I feared for our safety and I signed a statement which was retained by the court to condemn me. I was officially advised of the complaint relating to September 12, 2006 one month after the events. Civil action was taken by the MRAP, the LDH and the LICRA.
My lawsuit with Epinal on October 2, 2007.
The civil parties in the case took up the terms of the libellous press campaign, treating me as illiterate and racist. The lawyer of the MRAP labelled me a Catholic fundamentalist, even though none of my children are baptised.
My defense was based, at my request, on the issue of Women’s Rights., Maître Varaut made a plea which plunged the room into silence. The opposing parties spent all their time insulting me as well as the two women who testified, Anne Zelenski and Annie Sugier.
At the end of the hearing, when the Vice-president of the court asked me whether I had anything to add, I spoke only about Anne (Zelenski) and Annie (Sugier), reminding the lawyers Welzer, Tubiana and Bouvier, that if one day, they defend a beaten woman, that they remember them, because it was they who created the first refuge for beaten women in 1978. But it was not until 1992, 14 years later that a law was introduced to repress marital violence.
I was found guilty of religious discrimination and received 4 months of suspended sentence and a fine of €8,490. (fuller details about the judgement can be found on my site).
The court decided to condemn me from a passage of my deposition of August 29, 2006.
Extracts of the judgement: Given that Mrs Yvette Idoux married Truchelut report in these terms what occurred: “last August 11, we received a family which had reserved a lodging, family that we refused to lodge, my husband and I, due to two women wearing veils, members of this family, women who refused our request to withdraw this ostentatious sign of their religion in the common parts of the lodging” (statement of the 29/08/2006).
Given that it thus appears, unambiguous that Mrs Truchelut subordinated the hiring of her lodging to the removal by Mesdames HD and her mother of their veil, with the reason that this constituted, according to her own expression, “ostentatious sign of their religion“.
Thus, the common parts became the hiring of the lodging. The court did not take into account either the fact that it was HD who decided to leave or that I at no time requested it.
My appeal in Nancy
I was attacked via the Internet for having been defended by Maître Varaut. They said I should not be supported because of that. Thinking that it was important to win such a lawsuit and wishing as much as possible to gather people behind this cause, I changed lawyers and took on somebody who did not have any “label”. A serious error on my part. Maître Varaut was only an excuse to allow a great number not to implicate themselves.
Unfavourable side, one takes the same ones and one starts again, even insults and low blows.
My guilt was confirmed, I was condemned to two months of suspended sentence and €6,000 of damages.
My personal situation
At Christmas 2006 I received new phone calls from people with surnames of North African origin wishing to rent for Christmas, which made me fear new provocations. I again felt trapped and I decided to stop letting rooms with all the financial consequences that can be imagined. The property can be repossessed and sold without our permission, which will not be easy because it is located in a remote place in the mountain.
My father sent me to work in a factory at 14 years old and I have always worked since. I am 56 years old and I am separated from my husband. I have 2 more dependent children. I am entitled to a pension which I will not be able to touch until I am 60 years old. Currently I live on an allowance which enables me to live or rather to survive but I am unable to pay the €6,000 damages plus interest for which I was scandalously condemned. The decision was made executory, i.e. I must pay the associations known as human rights organizations (MRAP and LICRA) who did not hesitate for one moment to send a bailiff to threaten me to seize my pieces of furniture.
Your assistance would be most welcome. For those who wish to help me financially:
- by cheque to the order of Fanny Truchelut
5, rue Louis Français — 88370 — Plombières Baths
- by credit transfer: BANK: CIC EAST IBAN: FR 76 30087 3366 100020074001 68
I am writing a book to testify to this story.
I thank you.