Former French National Front Leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in New Trial for Antisemitic Barb
The aging founder of France’s leading postwar far right political party was absent from the central criminal court in Paris on Wednesday as his lawyer responded to charges of instigating racial hatred against a Jewish pop singer.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 93-year-old former head of the National Front (FN), did not appear in person to answer for a 2014 video posted on the FN’s website, in which he railed against celebrities who had spoken out against his racist and antisemitic positions. When asked about the criticisms voiced by Patrick Bruel, a Jewish singer and actor, Le Pen answered with a joke about the Holocaust.
“I’m not surprised. Listen, next time we’ll do a whole oven batch!” he said at the time.
Le Pen was represented during Wednesday’s four-hour hearing by his lawyer, Frédéric Joachim. “This case is based only on part of a sentence taken out of context,” Joachim told the court as he requested a dismissal.
The judges in the case said that they would issue their verdict on October 29.
Once the talisman of Europe’s far right, Le Pen’s influence has waned dramatically over the last decade. After the furore over the 2014 video, the following year Le Pen’s daughter and fellow FN leader Marine Le Pen expelled him from the party and renamed it the National Rally (RN) in a bid to distance herself from its fascist and antisemitic roots.
Le Pen was notorious throughout his career for denigrating the Nazi Holocaust, running afoul of French laws against hate speech and Holocaust denial on more than one occasion for insisting that the extermination of the Jews was a “minor detail” of the Second World War. He has been fined on other occasions for referring to Roma gypsies as “rash-inducing” and “smelly” and for claiming that the Nazi occupation of France was “not particularly inhumane.”
Le Pen briefly entertained hopes of becoming France’s president in 2002, when he progressed to the second round of the election that year. The far-right leader was eventually trounced by center-right candidate Jacques Chirac, who won 82 percent of the vote in his face-off against Le Pen.