Sunday, 7 February 2010

On this day...

French author Emile Zola was brought to trial over an editorial piece written for the Parisian newspaper 'L'Aurore' in 1898. In an open letter to the French president, then Felix Faure, Zola's article condemned the government for their perceived antisemitic and unjust stance over an issue of military exoneration. Jewish captain Alfred Dreyfus was, at the time of writing, serving a life sentance in an island prison on account of espionage; accusations which had later surfaced to be false.

Yet the army had suppressed the evidence and innocence, and so it was left to Zola in 'J'Accuse', to expose their mistakes. In an affair that deeply divided sections of both the Church and society, Zola was brought to trial for criminal libel and 16 days later was sentanced to one year's imprisonment. Instead he chose to flee to France to England, where he spent an unhappy year until his return in 1899. Dreyfus was not pardoned until 1899, and even then not exonerated until 1906. The issue is still one of some contention.

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