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France's Jean-Marie Le Pen on trial for homophobic remarks

Le Pen is likely to be tried in absentia after he was hospitalised last month
Le Pen is likely to be tried in absentia after he was hospitalised last month AFP/File

Paris (AFP)

French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen goes on trial Wednesday accused of making a string of homophobic remarks, including about a gay policeman killed in a jihadist attack last year.

The 90-year-old, who founded the far-right National Front -- recently re-named the National Rally -- has multiple convictions for xenophobic and anti-Semitic comments.

This time he is in court for three separate statements which plaintiffs say were homophobic.

Le Pen is likely to be tried in absentia after he was hospitalised on September 25 for what his relatives termed "observation".

In one case he suggested the partner of police officer Xavier Jugele, shot dead in Paris in April 2017, should not have spoken so freely of his love at a national memorial ceremony.

"I think this family trait should have been kept away from such a ceremony which would have benefited from more discretion," Le Pen wrote at the time on his blog.

Jugele was killed while on duty on the famous Champs Elysees avenue. His attacker was shot dead by police.

The policeman's partner -- who later married him posthumously -- had delivered a moving eulogy at the remembrance ceremony, led by then president Francois Hollande.

- 'Unacceptable provocation' -

"I have no hatred, Xavier, because it is not like you and does not fit with what made your heart beat nor what made you a guardian of the peace," Etienne Cardiles said.

Le Pen is also being sued for telling Le Figaro newspaper in 2016 that "homosexuals are like salt in soup. If there isn't enough it's a bit bland; when there's too much, it's inedible."

And the court will also hear a complaint that he suggested a link between homosexuality and paedophilia in a video on his blog the same year.

Mousse, a campaign group against homophobic and sexist discrimination, brought the case him over the latter two remarks, describing them as an "unacceptable provocation to hate".

Le Pen's lawyer told AFP in February that the far-right patriarch had "nothing against homosexuals", adding: "He claims above all his right to express an opinion".

Le Pen sits as an independent member of the European Parliament after being thrown out of his party by its current chief, his daughter Marine Le Pen, in 2015.

The younger Le Pen, who has struggled to rid her party of a reputation for anti-Semitism and racism, said her father was no longer welcome after he said the Nazi gas chambers were a mere "detail" of history.

A five-time presidential candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen handed over control of the party to his daughter in 2011.

Since then however he has regularly quarrelled with her over party policy, and even sued in a failed bid to avoid being ditched as honorary party chairman.

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