PARIS (Jun. 24)
French extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has said he asked the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights to punish France for fining him $230,000 for calling the Nazi gas chambers “a detail of history.”
Le Pen, who heads the National Front, was first convicted in 1990, when a French court ruled that he had cast doubt on the Nazi persecution of Jews and Gypsies in a statement he made during a radio interview.
He was found guilty of inciting racial hatred and given a symbolic fine of one franc. He appealed that ruling, but a Versailles court rejected his arguments and fined him 1.2 million francs — about $230,000.
“I am not saying the gas chambers did not exist,” Le Pen said in the 1987 broadcast. “I did not see them myself. I have not studied the question, but I think it is a mere detail in the history of World War II.”
Le Pen said he asked the European court to order France to pay him $1.5 million for what he calls a violation of his freedom of speech and right to a fair trial.
The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples said it hoped that the court would issue a resounding disavowal of Le Pen, who “loudly applauds negationists and who has repeatedly been convicted of racism and inciting racial hatred.”
The movement said in a statement, “How can a man whose behavior, words, history, culture and ideology generate racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia demand reparations?”
Earlier this month, Le Pen said Nazi collaborators were welcome in his anti- immigrant party.
“The National Front welcomes all French people who have not dishonored themselves, whether they fought in the Resistance or worked for Vichy,” Jean- Marie Le Pen told a news conference, referring to the regime that governed Nazi-occupied France.