Paris trial opens for 93-year old Jean-Marie Le Pen accused of anti-Semitic incitement

Far right party founder will not appear in person at trial over accusations he made anti-Semitic comment towards French pop singer.

Dan Verbin ,

Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral,
Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral,
iStock

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 93-year old founder of the National Front, France’s largest far right party, will go on trial next week over an accusation that he incited racial hatred with comments he made about a Jewish pop singer, France24 reported.

Nicknamed the "Devil of the Republic" by French media, in part for previous hate speech allegations, including accusations of Holocaust denial, the current case revolves around an utterance directed at a Jewish singer that was seen as anti-Semitic, according to a 2017 report by AFP.

The remarks where made about pop singer Patrick Bruel in a video interview posted on the National Front’s website in 2014.

When challenged about critical statements made towards him by Bruel and other singers and celebrities, including Madonna and French tennis player-turned singer Yannick Noah, Le Pen reportedly laughed and said about Bruel: “I’m not surprised. Listen, next time we’ll do a whole oven batch.”

The remark drew considerable criticism as it was seen as a reference to the crematoria used by the Nazis to incinerate Holocaust victims.

Current leader of the party, Le Pen’s daughter Marine Le Pen, denounced the remark as a “political mistake.”

Her father denied the comment was intended to be a reference to Jewish victims of Nazi death camps. At the time he claimed that the comments had no anti-Semitic undertones “except for my political enemies or imbeciles.”

Le Pen will not appear in person at his Paris trial. He is charged with inciting anti-Semitic hatred, according to French media sources.

"This case is based only on part of a phrase taken out of context," Frederic Joachim, Le Pen’s lawyer, said. France24 reported that he will ask the judge to dismiss the charge.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has already been convicted of multiple hate speech charges. His statements eventually caused Marine Le Pen to expel him from the National Front’s leadership in 2015 in order to bring the party to mainstream acceptance. In 2018, in a further attempt to distance the party from its past, Marine Le Pen changed the party’s name to the National Rally.

During France’s 2017 presidential elections, Marine Le Pen finished second to Emmanuel Macron.

However, another conviction for her father could make it harder for the younger Le Pen to stage a rematch against Macron in next year’s presidential election. In June, the National Rally performed poorly in French regional elections, and was unable to win control of any regional bodies.



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