International rugby player Bastien Chalureau, sentenced in 2020 to six months in prison for racist violence and insults, appeared on appeal in Toulouse on Tuesday in this case which had resurfaced in the middle of the World Cup.
The massive second line of Montpellier had appealed the judgment pronounced in first instance by the Toulouse criminal court, contesting the racist nature of the attack on two former Toulouse rugby players.
“Bastien Chalureau does not dispute the physical damage, the existence of this fight. On the other hand, there is a dispute over the racist motive for the facts with which he is accused,” David Mendel, the player's lawyer, told AFP. The 31-year-old rugby player denies having said “Are you okay with the bugnoules?”, as claimed by the complainants.
If the 31-year-old defendant and his two victims came to blows on January 31, 2020 at the end of the evening, in an underground car park in the center of Toulouse, it was following an exchange of words in a bar, more early in the evening, assures Me Mendel. A version of the facts challenged by the civil party's lawyer, Me Laurent Sabounji, who denies the existence of a prior meeting.
“In the parking lot, my clients heard racist insults and then they were attacked. It's not a fight. This is gratuitous aggression. It all started with a blow from behind to one of my clients,” emphasizes Me Sabounji.
On November 3, 2020, nine months after the events, the Toulouse criminal court sentenced Bastien Chalureau to six months in prison for “acts of violence (...) committed because of the race or ethnicity of the victim".
Bastien Chalureau will be present at the hearing on Tuesday. “Racism is not Chalureau’s values,” insists his lawyer.
Without waiting for his trial in 2020, he was fired by his employer, Stade Toulouse. At the time unknown to the general public, he then signed for Montpellier, where he revealed himself at the highest level, winning the European Challenge in 2021 and the French championship the following season.
As the Rugby World Cup approached, the affair resurfaced in the media, leading the Head of State to speak out on the matter. Emmanuel Macron then estimated that in the event of confirmation on appeal of the judgment, it “would be preferable” that he no longer wears the jersey of the France team.
“I'm not racist,” the player defended himself, in tears during a press conference, since the French XV training camp at the beginning of September.
During the World Cup, the Montpellier native, called up to the French team to replace the injured Paul Willemse, ultimately only played half an hour against Uruguay.
Originally from Cazères, a small town in Haute-Garonne, where he made his debut, Bastien Chalureau was trained at Stade Toulouse. He successively played in Perpignan and Nevers (Pro D2), before returning to Toulouse.
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