French far-right political journalist Eric Zemmour, who is expected to run for president next year, is on trial over racist hate speech against unaccompanied child migrants.

Eric Zemmour told CNews channel in September last year that child migrants were
Eric Zemmour told CNews channel in September last year that child migrants were "thieves, killers, they're rapists. That's all they are. We should send them back." (Reuters)

A trial for French far-right pundit Eric Zemmour, who is charged with racist hate speech against unaccompanied child migrants, has begun in Paris.

In court on Wednesday, the prosecution denounced what it described as Zemmour's "contemptuous, outrageous" words and called for an $11,300 fine.

"The limits of freedom of expression have been crossed," said Manon Adam, calling for the fine to be set at $113 a day for 100 days, with the possibility of jail if it was not paid.

For the defence, lawyer Olivier Pardo argued that Zemmour was developing a political argument.

"His thesis that there must be no immigration" was a political position, he said, calling for Zemmour to be cleared of the charges.

The court will hand down its verdict on January 17.

The 63-year-old did not appear in person, saying in a statement that he refused "to accept that a political debate takes place in a courtroom".

The journalist, author and TV pundit has two previous convictions for hate speech and has been investigated 16 times in total for his incendiary remarks on immigration and Islam. 

READ MORE: Eric Zemmour: France's new far-right candidate for the presidency

'We should send them back'

Zemmour, who is widely expected to run for the presidency next year, told the CNews channel in September 2021 that child migrants were "thieves, killers, they're rapists. That's all they are. We should send them back."

In 2011, he was fined $11,300 for claiming on TV that "most drug dealers are black and Arab". 

In 2018, he was ordered to pay about $2,600 for stigmatising comments about a Muslim "invasion" of France.

Immigration is a major theme of early presidential campaigning, with Zemmour and other right-wing hopefuls promising to address fraud in the asylum system and the difficulty of returning people if their claims are rejected.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies