French court tries far-right leader Le Pen for Nazi remarks
In a 2005 interview, Jean-Marie Le Pen said Nazi occupation of France was 'not particularly inhumane'.
PARIS - Prosecutors told a court on Friday French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen should receive a suspended prison sentence and a fine for saying that the Nazi occupation of France was "not particularly inhumane".
Le Pen's trial for "justification of war crimes" and "contesting crimes against humanity" opened on Friday.
It centers around a comment Le Pen made in a 2005 interview with right-wing weekly magazine Rivarol, which angered the government, anti-racism organisations and Jewish groups.
The prosecution asked that Le Pen be handed a five-month suspended sentence and fined 10,000 euros ($14,530).
He denies any wrongdoing and did not attend the trial. His defense team argued that his remarks were not part of an interview but of a casual conversation.
"In France, at least, the German occupation was not particularly inhumane, although there were some blunders, inevitable in a country of 550,000 sq km," he was quoted as saying in the magazine.
During the Nazi German occupation of France from 1940 until 1944, about 76,000 Jews were deported. Only 2,500 returned.
French anti-racism laws have made denying the Holocaust a crime, punishable by fines or imprisonment.
The prosecution also requested that the head of Rivarol magazine, Marie-Luce Wacquez, be handed a two-month suspended prison sentence and be fined 5,000 euros, and that the journalist who conducted the interview be fined 3,500 euros.
Le Pen, who stunned France in the 2002 presidential election when he finished second, suffered a crushing blow in this year's April presidential ballot when he finished fourth with less than 11 percent backing - his worst showing since the 1974 vote.
In June, his National Front party failed to win a single seat in legislative elections, meaning the loss of state funding that may force Le Pen to sell his party's Paris headquarters.
The Paris court is due to announce its verdict on Feb. 8.