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Le Pen found guilty of justifying war crimes

Latest update : 2008-02-08

French far-right political leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was handed a three-month suspended jail sentence on Friday for describing the Nazi occupation of France as "not especially inhumane."

PARIS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A French court gave far-right
leader Jean-Marie Le Pen a three-month suspended prison sentence
on Friday and fined him 10,000 euros ($14,500) for saying that
the Nazi occupation of France was "not particularly inhumane".


Le Pen was found guilty of "justification of war crimes" and
"contesting crimes against humanity" in the trial which opened
in December.


It centred around a comment Le Pen made in a 2005 interview
with right-wing weekly magazine Rivarol, which angered the
government, anti-racism organisations and Jewish groups.


The prosecution had requested that Le Pen be handed a
five-month suspended sentence and fined 10,000 euros.


Le Pen has always denied any wrongdoing and did not attend
the trial. His defence team argued that his remarks were not
part of an interview but of a casual conversation.


"In France, at least, the German occupation was not
particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders,
inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km," he was quoted as
saying in the magazine.


During the Nazi German occupation of France from 1940 until
1944, about 76,000 Jews were deported. Only 2,500 returned.


In addition, thousands of civilians were shot for acts of
resistance.


French anti-racism laws have made denying the Holocaust a
crime, punishable by fines or imprisonment.


The court also fined the head of Rivarol magazine,
Marie-Luce Wacquez 5,000 euros and ordered Jerome Bourbon, the
journalist who wrote the interview, to pay 2,000 euros.


Le Pen, who stunned France in the 2002 presidential election
when he finished second, suffered a crushing blow in last year's
presidential ballot when he finished fourth with less than 11
percent backing -- his worst showing since the 1974 vote.


In June, his National Front party failed to win a single
seat in legislative elections, meaning the loss of state funding
that has forced Le Pen to put his party's Paris headquarters up
for sale.

Date created : 2008-02-08