Far-right leader on trial for remarks on wartime occupation

7th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 6, 2007 (AFP) - French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is due in court Thursday on a charge of condoning war crimes over his comments that the Nazi occupation of France in World War II was "not especially inhumane."

PARIS, June 6, 2007 (AFP) - French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is due in court Thursday on a charge of condoning war crimes over his comments that the Nazi occupation of France in World War II was "not especially inhumane."

However justice officials said it is likely the trial will be automatically suspended because of the impending legislative elections in which his National Front (FN) party is running candidates across the country.

Le Pen, who is 79 later this month, was sued by several rights groups over an interview with the far-right magazine Rivarol in January 2005.
 
"In France at least the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses -- inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometres," he told the magazine.

"If the Germans had carried out mass executions across the country as the received wisdom would have it, then there wouldn't have been any need for concentration camps for political deportees."

"It's not just from the European Union and globalisation that we need to deliver our country, but also from the lies about its history," he told the weekly.

He also appeared to cast doubt on the official version of the June 1944 massacre in the southern village of Oradour-sur-Glane -- an iconic moment in French histories of World War II, in which hundreds of civilians were murdered by a division of the SS.

Hinting that the accepted story of Nazi brutality was simplistic, he said: "There is a lot more to be said about that."

Le Pen was to be judged on two counts: being an apologist for war crimes, and denying crimes against humanity.

With the help of the collaborationist Vichy government, the German authorities deported more than 70,000 French Jews to death camps, and thousands of French civilians died in reprisals by the German army -- especially towards the end of the war.

However historical debate has raged over the degree of French acceptance of the 1940-1944 occupation, which for most of the time was relatively peaceful compared to the experiences of countries in eastern Europe.

In 1991 Le Pen was fined 1.2 million francs (180,000 euros, 240,000 dollars) for saying that the Nazi gas chambers were a detail of history -- though he did not deny their existence.

Elections to the National Assembly take place on June 10 and 17.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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