Jean-Marie Le Pen, MEP and leader of France's far-right Front National, outraged assembled members of the European Parliament by repeating his assertion that the Nazi gas chambers were "a mere detail" in the history of the Second World War.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right Front National, has once again caused outrage by saying the Nazi gas chambers were “a mere detail in the history of the Second World War”.
This time he repeated the assertion – almost verbatim – in the European Parliament itself, to howls of derision from his fellow MEPs.
The repetition follows a scandal at the possibility that, if elected, he would chair the parliament’s inaugural session – by default – because he is the oldest MEP.
Because of European Parliamentary rules, as the “doyen”, or oldest, MEP, Le Pen would have the privilege of chairing the first session of Parliament.
Le Pen apparently flew off the handle after Martin Schultz , leader of the Socialists parliamentary group, made “defamatory accusations” against him.
Schultz, with support from Europe’s Greens, put pressure on the Parliament to find any way possible to stop their nemesis from taking centre stage.
Schultz said he was outraged “that a Holocaust denier should preside over the European Parliament’s inaugural session”. He added that Le Pen was an “ageing fascist”.
The scandal comes just months before the European legislative elections – in which Le Pen is expected to win a renewal of his mandate as an MEP.
“An obsessive madman and Holocaust denier"
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a German Green Party MEP, told FRANCE 24 that Le Pen is “an obsessive madman and Holocaust denier. When he wants to gorge himself on anti-Semitism, he does just that. He seems to be doing everything possible to stop himself from getting elected.”
Cohn-Bendit recognised, however, that MEPs enjoy parliamentary immunity – and that as an elected member his right to express himself should not be limited, as “it would undermine the fundamental liberties of the peoples’ representatives”.
Le Pen was fully aware that he was enjoying parliamentary immunity.
But if he is trying to raise his public profile, it comes at a desperate time for his party, which is haemorrhaging support. It has been abandoned by much of its membership and is in financial dire straits.
The gas chambers issue is a favourite bone of contention which Le Pen likes to dig up from time to time. He made the infamous comments first in 1987 and repeated them again ten years later. He was fined 183,000 euros by a French court.
Date created : 2009-03-25