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French court acquits far-right vet Jean-Marie Le Pen of hate speech

Le Pen claimed the comments carried no anti-Semitic connotations "except for my political enemies or imbeciles".

(AFP) — A French court on Friday cleared the 93-year-old founder of France's main far-right party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of charges of inciting racial hatred with comments targeting a Jewish pop singer.

Le Pen has a string of hate speech convictions that eventually prompted his daughter Marine Le Pen to expel him from the National Front's leadership in 2015, in a bid to achieve mainstream respectability.

The senior Le Pen has continued to spark outrage with statements regarding Jews, Muslims, blacks and immigrants, including with his insistence that the Nazi gas chambers were just a "detail" of World War II history.

The latest trial stems from a 2014 video on the party's website in which Le Pen railed against artists who denounced his extremist stances, including Madonna and French tennis star-turned-singer Yannick Noah.

Asked about the French singer and actor Patrick Bruel, Le Pen referred to his Jewish origins with a pun evoking the Holocaust -- "I'm not surprised. Listen, next time we'll do a whole oven batch!"

The taunt sparked a torrent of indignation, including from leaders of his own party, with Marine Le Pen criticizing what she called a "political error".

Jean-Marie Le Pen claimed the comments carried no anti-Semitic connotations "except for my political enemies or imbeciles".

The court disagreed, with the presiding judge saying Friday that Le Pen had clearly targeted Jews with his comment.

She added, however, that while he had obviously "relished" in delighting a crowd of supporters with his play on words, the statement did not amount to "inciting discrimination and violence".

The one-day trial, which was held in Le Pen's absence in September, had been delayed for years while he claimed immunity from prosecution as a member of the European Parliament, a seat he won in 1984 and held until 2019.

But fellow lawmakers stripped his legal protections over the case in 2016.

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© Agence France-Presse

Categories / Civil Rights, Criminal, International, Politics

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