French police interview witnesses to British MP 'Nazi' party
French police have interviewed staff at a restaurant that hosted a party attended by a British member of parliament at which some guests toasted the Third Reich, prosecutors said Friday.
The MP, Aidan Burley of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, was among a group of men, one of them wearing an SS uniform, who were filmed by reporters at a party where Nazi chants and salutes were made.
Burley has apologised for attending the event in the French Alpine resort of Val Thorens, and insists that he himself did not take part in Nazi-themed revelry, although he has been sacked as a junior parliamentary aide.
Now police in France, where wearing Nazi regalia or defending or denying the Holocaust are illegal, are investigating whether any laws were broken by the party, some or all of whom could eventually face charges.
The French state prosecutor's office in Albertville told AFP that staff at the Restaurant La Fondue had been interviewed as witnesses and that clients from other tables on the night of December 3 were being sought.
"Either we could open a prosecution in France or we could make a complaint to British judicial authorities for them to take a decision on whether to open an inquiry there," an official at the office said.
France has already opened a preliminary inquiry, following a British press report and a complaint from an anti-racism group, but no-one has yet been charged or placed under formal criminal investigation.
Anyone convicted of "defending war crimes or crimes against humanity" faces five years in jail and a fine of 45,000 euros, while "wearing the uniform and regalia of a war criminal organisation" carries a 1,500 euro fine.
Reporters from the British newspaper The Daily Mail secretly filmed the stag party in La Fondue.
In the footage the stag is clearly see wearing the uniform of the World War II Nazi SS, and he later posed for a photograph for the reporters in front of the restaurant still wearing it and giving a Nazi salute.
On the footage from the within the restaurant, one of the guests is heard giving a toast "to the ideology and thought processes of the Third Reich."
According to the Mail report, the party went on to a nearby bar to continue drinking, where they chanted the names of leading Nazis and boasted of having offended a Jewish Frenchman, but there was no footage of this.
On Thursday, Burley said in a statement: "I have not been contacted by the French authorities and I have repeatedly apologised for what was clearly inappropriate behaviour which caused offence to others.
He told the BBC: "They are launching a preliminary investigation and I understand I am not the focus of it. I do not believe I have broken any French law and have distanced myself from the behaviour of other people on the stag."
British stag parties, held before a marriage, are typically booze-fuelled pub crawls, often with the groom-to-be in embarrassing fancy dress.
© 2011 AFP