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French Appeals Court Reverses Ruling Against Le Pen for Slur

An appeals court in Versailles has reversed a judgment of some $160,000 against right-wing extremist leader Jean-Marie Le Pen for insulting a government minister during the 1988 election campaign by linking his name to gas chambers.

The fact that the fine, imposed in March, is believed to be the heaviest ever levied for that type of offense may have contributed to the appeal court’s ruling.

Le Pen was convicted for publicly deriding the name of Michel Durafour, a centrist politician who was minister of public service, by rhyming it mockingly with “crematoire,” the French word for crematorium or gas chamber. The French word “four” means oven.

Le Pen, whose National Front is widely considered to be racist and anti-Semitic, was sued by the government under a late 19th-century law that rarely has been applied.

A court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre fined him on March 7 after nearly two years of deliberations. It rejected Le Pen’s argument that his “game of words was part of the political debate.”

But the appeals court accepted it. “The expression used by Le Pen has to be taken in context,” the reversal said. “It was in the framework of an electoral campaign against a political opponent who openly said he wanted to eliminate the National Front.”

Durafour indeed had urged voters to oppose the extremist party.

NEW ANTI-JEWISH TRACT PUBLISHED

Le Pen was sued twice in March for offensive remarks in which he slurred Holocaust victims. Ironically, the same appeals court at that time ordered Le Pen to pay 100,000 francs-about $16,000 — for slurring Holocaust victims.

He had been sued by 10 organizations for stating publicly in 1987 that the Nazi gas chambers were merely “a detail of World War IL” The Versailles court ordered him to pay 100,000 francs to nine organizations representing former deportees plus a nominal 10 francs to an organization fighting racism and anti-Semitism.

There was no immediate reaction Tuesday in Paris to the court’s most recent decision.

Meanwhile, a tract accusing Jews of racism and justifying their persecution was published by one of Le Pen’s lieutenants last week.

Michel Duchochois, the National Front’s secretary for Ariege, in southern France, wrote his essay, “Racists by God’s Will,” for the local party newsletter.

He claimed that God’s selection of the Jews as the “chosen people” so fills them with a sense of superiority as to make them “barely bearable to the people amongst whom they are living.”

He wrote that the “arrogance” of the Jews and their “screaming that they are being persecuted” causes “predictable reactions in defense” among the people they lived among, “even when those reactions are sometimes excessive.”

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