The ageing 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 – reports the Algemeiner.
Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 93-year-old former leader of the French National Front (FN), did not appear in person to answer for a 2014 video posted on the party’s website, in which he railed against celebrities who had spoken out against his racist and antisemitic positions. When asked about the criticism written by the Jewish singer and actor Patrick Bruel, Le Pen answered with a joke about the Holocaust.
„I’m not surprised. Listen, next time, we’ll do a whole oven batch!” Le Pen said at the time.
Le Pen was represented by his lawyer, Frédéric Joachim, at the 4-hour-long trial on Wednesday. „This case is based only on the part of a sentence taken out of context,” Joachim told the court as he requested a dismissal.
The judges will make a decision on October 29.
There was a time when Le Pen was the symbol of the European far-right extremists, but his influence in the past decade has reduced significantly. Following the outrage caused by his 2014 video, the following year, Le Pen’s daughter and fellow leader in the FN party, Marine Le Pen, excluded him from the party and renamed it National Rally (NR) to distance herself from the party’s fascist and antisemitic roots.
During his career, Le Pen was famous for vilifying the Holocaust, flouting French laws forbidding hate speech and the denial of the Holocaust when he declared that the extermination of the Jews was a „minor detail” in World War II. On other occasions, he was fined for calling the Roma gypsies „rash-inducing” and „smelly”, stating that the Nazi occupation of France was „not particularly inhumane”.