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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 January, 2005, 22:17 GMT
Le Pen WWII remark triggers probe
Jean-Marie Le Pen
Le Pen has been convicted of anti-Semitism in the past
The French authorities have ordered a criminal investigation into alleged comments about Nazi wartime occupation by far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

He reportedly said the Nazi occupation of France during World War II was "not especially inhumane".

French Justice Minister Dominique Perben said he was appalled and had asked prosecutors to open a preliminary inquiry into the comments.

The 76-year-old National Front leader has a history of being controversial.

He apparently made his latest comments during an interview with the small extreme-right paper Rivarol.

"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 sq km (220,000 sq miles)," he was quoted as saying.

"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."

He went on: "It's not just from the European Union and globalisation that we need to deliver our country, but also from the lies about its history."

'Detail of history'

Anti-racism laws in France make denying the Holocaust a crime, punishable by either fines or prison.

"He will have to explain himself before the justice system," said Dominique Perben.

"I'm struck by the way Mr Le Pen has insulted the victims, their families, former combatants, those who were deported and all those who suffered during this dark period of our history."

Mr Le Pen, who founded the National Front (FN) party in 1972, has been convicted of racism or anti-Semitism on a number of occasions before.

In 1987 he described the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history".

More than 70,000 French Jews were deported during the Nazi occupation from 1940 until 1944. Thousands of civilians also died at the hands of the German army.

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