11/02/2012 08:16 EDT | Updated 01/02/2013 05:12 EST

Student leader to appeal contempt conviction

Quebec's college teachers' federation is joining the growing support for one of the student leaders who was convicted for contempt of court Thursday.

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, former spokesman for the more militant student association CLASSE and a major player in last summer's student protests, was found guilty in court Thursday.

The judge ruled Nadeau encouraged protestors to ignore court orders, asking them to form picket lines and stop students who had obtained court injunctions to return to class.

"Despite recognizing Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois' exceptional social engagement, we wish to put value on the freedom of expression the association's spokesman used in defending decisions made in a democratic manner by its members," said Mario Beauchemin, president of the college teachers' federation.

Beauchemin also said the charges laid against Nadeau-Dubois were "disrespectful" to the student association he represented.

The student leader is making the appeal under the counsel of his lawyer, Giuseppe Sciortino, who says there was no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Nadeau-Dubois had read the injunction.

However, the court has rejected the argument, saying it was clear Nadeau-Dubois was aware of the injuction and used his platform to encourage non-compliance with a court order.

Justice Jacques Denis also wrote in his ruling that Nadeau-Dubois had advocated anarchy.

Nadeau-Dubois responded to the judge's comments today, saying that he never encouraged disorder.

"I am not for anarchy, I'm not for disorder ... I'm for accessibility to education and justice," Nadeau-Dubois said.

Students protest in solidarity with CLASSE spokesperson

Nadeau-Dubois thanked those that took to the streets of Montreal last night in solidarity with him and his cause.

About 100 protesters took part in a spontaneous demonstration in his defence.

He said his decision to appeal is not just about fighting a personal battle but that the sentence sets a dangerous precendent by threatening those who speak out on behalf of the public with the fear of prison.

"With all respect for the court, I feel like, in this moment, we're looking for a scapegoat," Nadeau-Dubois said. "We're looking for someone to carry the blame for everything that happened last spring. I don't think it's anything new, I feel I've been the chosen one for a few months.

"We're avoiding the real issue, we're avoiding the real debate — that is not a judicial debate but a political debate on access to education."

Nadeau could face a year in prison and a $50,000 fine.