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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 January, 2005, 11:54 GMT
Le Pen hits back over Nazi remark
Jean-Marie Le Pen
Le Pen has been convicted of anti-Semitism in the past
French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has condemned the outcry over his controversial remarks on the Nazi occupation of France.

Mr Le Pen, who reportedly said the occupation was "not especially inhumane", said it was "scandalous" he was not free to air his views.

A criminal investigation has been ordered into the comments, which were made in the far-right paper Rivarol.

Mr Le Pen denounced the "political control of thought" in France.

He told RTL radio: "It is rather scandalous that, 60 years later, one cannot express oneself in a coherent and calm way on these subjects and freely pass judgment on the facts of the occupation."

The controversial National Front leader, 76, also said he would file a complaint against the Le Monde newspaper, which he accused of "manipulating" his words in its account of the interview.

Mr Le Pen is quoted as telling 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).

"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."

Anti-racism laws

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

Jewish groups also reacted angrily to the comments.

Anti-racism laws in France make denying the Holocaust a crime, punishable by either fines or prison - although it remains unclear whether Mr Le Pen could be prosecuted under such legislation on the basis of these remarks.

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, while thousands of civilians died at the hands of the German army in France.

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