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France's Le Pen Sentenced
For WWII Remarks!
PARIS (AFP) -- French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was handed a three-month suspended jail sentence on Friday for describing the Nazi occupation of France as "not especially inhumane".
JEAN-MARIE Le PEN : Former French paratrooper is sentenced for disclosing truth about German occupation of wartime France.
Le Pen, 79, was found guilty of denying a crime against humanity and complicity in condoning war crimes, over the remarks made in an interview with a far-right magazine in 2005.
The veteran National Front (FN) chief was also fined 10,000 euros (14,500 dollars) for his remarks. Le Pen was not in court to hear the verdict but his lawyer said there was a "100-percent chance" his client would appeal.
Le Pen told Rivarol magazine that "in France at least the German occupation was not especially inhumane, even if there were a number of excesses - inevitable in a country of 550,000 square kilometers."
"If the Germans had carried out mass executions across the country as the received wisdom would have it, then there wouldn't have been any need for concentration camps for political deportees."
'Tried to sow doubt'
The court ruled that Le Pen "tried to sow doubt over what may have been committed by the Nazis on French territory, such as the deportation of the Jews or the persecution of Resistance members, both crimes against humanity."
Rivarol journalist Jerome Bourbon and the magazine's editor Marie-Luce Wacquez were also respectively fined 2,000 and 5,000 euros.
Le Pen also partially exonerated the German army over a 1944 massacre of 86 people in the town of Villeneuve d'Ascq, saying it was the work of a lieutenant "mad with rage" over the death of comrades in a resistance attack, and that it was the Gestapo who intervened to stop the killings.
For this the court found him guilty of "deliberate historical falsification" and of giving "a positive image of the Gestapo" by glossing over the crimes it committed.
Le Pen's version was disputed during the trial by the mayor of Villeneuve d'Ascq and by prosecutor Anne de Fontette, who said it was like calling the Gestapo "the blue berets of the 1940s."
"This is a very heavy conviction, extremely rare in terms of media law," said the head of the MRAP anti-racism association, Richard Sebban, saying it was appropriate to Le Pen's "deeply serious falsification."
'Impossible case to defend'
But Le Pen's lawyer Wallerand de Saint-Just contested the verdict, saying: "The court is accusing my client of failing to speak of certain events - it's an impossible case to defend."
The far-right leader said in 2005 he felt "absolutely no guilt" over his remarks, and claimed he was a victim of "persecution" after he was unanimously condemned by French politicians and campaign groups.
Historical debate has raged over the degree of French acceptance of the 1940-1944 occupation, which for most of the time was relatively peaceful compared to the experiences of countries in eastern Europe.
Le Pen, who founded the FN in 1972, has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism on previous occasions. In 1987 he described the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history."
In 2002 he shocked Europe by making it through to the second round of France's presidential election.
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