French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen will be charged with denying the Holocaust after saying that "gas chambers were a detail' of World War II, AFP reported Friday.
The 87-year-old founder of France's National Front party, was summoned to stand trial before a Paris court a few weeks ago, though the trial date was not yet set, sources close to the investigation told AFP.
Le Pen was infuriated by the decision to put him to trial. "I thought that millions of French people had marched for freedom of expression,” he said, according to The Independent, in reference to the protests that followed the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
“I thought that included the right to blaspheme. And this is blasphemy, isn’t it? It is after all an almost religious point,” he added.
Le Pen told BFMTV in April that the "Gas chambers were a detail of the war, unless we accept that the war is a detail of the gas chambers," putting a spoke in the wheel of the party's efforts, led by his daughter Marine, to detoxify the party of the anti-Semitic and racist stances it is identified with.
Though Le Pen was initially suspended from the party after a much publicized row with his daughter, a French court reversed the party's decision, ordering it to restore the elder Le Pen's membership and position as honorary party president.
Le Pen's latest statement was by no means his first controversial remark concerning the Holocaust, and he has repeatedly insisted on terming the gas chambers "a detail," an insistence that has cost him dearly in the past.
In 1987 he was fined 1.2 million francs (183,200 euros) for making a similar remark: "I ask myself several questions. I'm not saying the gas chambers didn't exist. I haven't seen them myself. I haven't particularly studied the question. But I believe it's just a detail in the history of World War II."
In 1999, a Munich court convicted and fined Le Pen for telling a press conference three years earlier that "If you take a 1,000-page book on World War II, the concentration camps take up only two pages and the gas chambers 10 to 15 lines. This is what one calls a detail," AP reported at the time.
According to AFP, Le Pen, currently a member of the European Parliament, made similar statements before that body in 2008 and 2009 as well.