PARIS (Jun. 17)
A French court has dismissed a slander suit brought by right-wing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen against Paul-Elie Levy, who called Le Pen “a spiritual son of Hitler, Mussolini and Petain.”
Levy made the remark about the extremist anti-foreigner political leader during a January 1992 demonstration in the eastern city of Nancy to protest Le Pen’s presence there during a campaign for local elections.
Levy, a spokesman for CAFAR, an umbrella organization of more than 50 anti-racist and anti-fascist groups, was addressing a crowd of some 8,000 anti-Le Pen demonstrators.
Le Pen subsequently sued Levy for slander and asked for 100,000 francs (roughly $20,000) in damages.
In a rather unusual decision, the court of Nancy stated that Levy had indeed slandered Le Pen, but that he had done so in good faith and thus did not deserve to be convicted of a crime.
Moreover, the court ordered Le Pen to pay for the trial’s expenses, amounting to about $1,000.
The court said that Levy’s remark was made at a particular time and in such an atmosphere that “it is understandable that in order to convince his listeners, the speaker (Levy) thought he could resort to extreme language to denounce the language and political ideas of the plaintiff (Le Pen).”
The court noted that Levy did not intended to equate Le Pen with Hitler, but “to establish the existence of a spiritual link between the ideologies of (Hitler, Mussolini and Petain) and the political ideas of Le Pen.”
“One must admit that apart from the violence of the language, Le Pen keeps with the ideas applied in their time (by Hitler, Mussolini and Petain) by dubious and uncertain intellectual links,” the court concluded.
“This ambiguity is ascertained by the plaintiff’s proven complacency toward the so-called revisionist thesis negating the criminal reality of the Nazi extermination camps, the anti-Semitic aspiration of many of his collaborators, of his diatribes and harangues” and “his relations with various individuals and groups cultivating in France or abroad an unhealthy nostalgia of the years 1933 to 1945, while their stigma remain indelible.”
The court said Levy’s declarations were outrageous but no more than Le Pen’s in some circumstances.
Le Pen said he was “impatient to read the details of this fantastic decision, according to which the one who is insulted has to pay damages to the one insulting him.”
Le Pen said he would appeal the court’s decision.