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French Government to Sue Le Pen for Remark About Crematoriums

Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose crude joke about World War II crematoriums has been condemned even by some of his own followers on the far right, now faces a suit for slander by the French government.

Justice Minister Pierre Arpaillange announced Saturday evening that legal action will be brought against Le Pen for “insults to a member of the government.”

The offended party is Michel Durafour, recently named minister of public service in the Socialist government of President Francois Mitterrand. In a tasteless play on words at a meeting of his supporters Friday, Le Pen called him “Mr. Durafour-crematoire.”

In French the word “four” means oven and “four crematoire” is the term used for the crematoriums at Nazi death camps during World War II.

Coming barely a year after Le Pen publicly trivialized the Holocaust as a “mere footnote to history” — in a Radio Luxembourg interview broadcast last September — his latest controversial remark has offended public sensibilities across the political spectrum.

Francois Bachelot, a leading member of Le Pen’s extreme right-wing National Front, said he was “shocked” and expressed his “compassion” for the Jewish community of France.

Durafour, a centrist politician, was called an “imbecile’ and “sod” by Le Pen. Durafour said that considering the source, he did not regard these as insults.

Durafour denounced Le Pen as an anti-Semite and racist who “longs for the good old days of the Nazis” and would “like to see them back.” He is “a warning to all democrats,” Durafour said.

Minister of Planning Lionel Stoleru, who is Jewish, remarked, “While we are fighting to eradicate Le Pen from the political scene, Le Pen has proven that he would be glad to eradicate us physically if he could.”

The lawsuit against Le Pen will be filed under a 19th-century law that is rarely applied. Justice Minister Arpaillange said he would ask the Strasbourg-based Parliament of Europe to strip Le Pen of his parliamentary immunity so that he can stand trial.

The right-wing leader heads the small National Front delegation to the European Parliament, which is the legislative body of the 12-nation European Community.

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