French rightwing firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen is to be prosecuted for denying crimes against humanity after describing the gas chambers of the Holocaust as “a detail” of the Second World War.
The 87-year-old founder of the National Front was infuriated by the decision to take him to court and described the move as “further persecution”.
In reference to the public protests that followed the terrorist massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices early this year, he said: “I thought that millions of French people had marched for freedom of expression”
“I thought that included the right to blaspheme. And this is blasphemy, isn’t it? It is after all an almost religious point.”
The decision to prosecute followed the aging politician’s comments on French television in April when he said: "Gas chambers were a detail of the war, unless we accept that the war is a detail of the gas chambers."
It is not the first time he has made controversial remarks about the gas chambers that were used as part of Nazi Germany’s industrialised slaughter of Jews and other groups.
He made similar comments in 1987 and the controversy resurfaced in April when he was asked if he stood by his original comments about gas chambers. He also made similar statements in 1997, 2008 and 2009.
His televised interview in April led to a further break with his daughter, Marine, who has been trying to detoxify the National Front of some of its anti-semitic links since succeeding him as the leader in 2011.
She suspended him from the party in May but the move was overturned when he went to court to challenge the decision. He remains honorary chairman.
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