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Europe

France probes Nazi-themed party attended by British MP

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-12-22

French authorities have launched an investigation into a Nazi-themed stag party in the French Alps that was attended by a British Conservative MP. Aiden Burley (pictured) was later sacked by his party for his "offensive and foolish" behaviour.

AFP - French prosecutors said Thursday they had opened a probe into a Nazi-themed party attended by British Conservative MP Aidan Burley that led to him losing his post as a parliamentary aide.

"A preliminary investigation started yesterday," local prosecutor Patrick Quincy told AFP, as authorities opened a case file on a drunken night out by a group of British men in the French Alpine ski resort of Val Thorens.

The investigation was launched after a complaint from French anti-racism group SOS Racisme. Quincy said he had been unaware of the incident beforehand.
             
A lawyer for the restaurant where the party took place, La Fondue, said the establishment was also planning to file a complaint and that investigators had been to there on Thursday.
             
"We are preparing to hand in a complaint tomorrow," Julien Andrez told AFP, adding that two charges were possible: "inciting racial hatred" or "glorifying crimes against humanity".
             
Burley, 32, was sacked from his job as a parliamentary private secretary to Transport Secretary Justine Greening after pictures and video taken at the party earlier this month were published in the British press.
             
Burley, a lawmaker from Prime Minister David Cameron's centre-right Conservatives, represents Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, central England.
              
"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," Burley said in a statement.
             
"They are launching a preliminary investigation and I understand I am not the focus of it," he also told the BBC.
             
"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 man gets married, are typically jovial, boozy nights out, often with the groom-to-be in embarrassing fancy dress.
             
Burley was photographed sitting next to the stag, who was wearing the black uniform of a World War II-era German SS officer.
             
A video showed a guest raising a toast to the Third Reich at the party and reports said the group had later chanted "Mein Fuehrer!" and the names of Nazis Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Eichmann, who were responsible for the Holocaust.
              
The Conservative Party said in a statement that Burley was removed from his post because of his "offensive and foolish" behaviour at the party.
             
Cameron also asked for a full investigation.
             
In a message to his constituents on Wednesday, the MP voiced his "deepest regret", adding: "There are no excuses for my foolish behaviour which, over the past two weeks, has caused so much distress to so many people.
             
"I made a bad error of judgment and you deserved better from your local MP.
             
"Being involved in a stag party where an SS uniform was worn was wrong and offensive. It was the wrong decision on my part; crass and insensitive.
             
Burley insisted: "I have no sympathies whatsoever with Nazism, racism, or fascism... I personally did not participate in any alcohol-fuelled attempted toasts by other guests to the Third Reich."
             
Under French law it is a crime to make anti-Semitic statements or exhibit Nazi uniforms or emblems in public, unless required for a film, play or other cultural production.
             
Glorifying or defending war crimes or crimes against humanity is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros ($59,000), while wearing the uniform of an organisation that carried out crimes against humanity is punishable by a fine of 1,500 euros.
             
Earlier this year, British fashion designer John Galliano was convicted of anti-Semitism for hurling abuse at bar patrons in Paris's Jewish quarter and given a suspended fine of 6,000 euros.

 

Date created : 2011-12-22

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