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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
Le Pen out of euro-parliament
Mr Le Pen
Mr Le Pen's anti-semitic comments have stoked controversy
French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen has lost his seat in the European parliament after losing a final appeal over his conviction for assault on a rival female politician.

Mr Le Pen was barred from the parliament earlier this month after the highest court in France - the Council of State - confirmed a 1998 sentence excluding him from public office for one year, because of the assault.

Mr Le Pen, I invite you to leave the chamber

Parliament President Nicole Fontaine
A final attempt on Friday to ask the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to suspend the ruling failed when the court rejected the appeal.

For many years Mr Le Pen has stoked controversy by his strident anti-immigrant stance and anti-semitic comments. He once described the gas chambers as "a detail" in the history of the Second World War.

'Fight continues'

I think that it is a major injustice

Mr Le Pen
European Parliament President Nicole Fontaine announced the decision.

"Mr Le Pen, I invite you to leave the chamber, and so that everything happens with dignity... I am adjourning the session for a quarter of an hour," he said.

Mr Le Pen reacted sharply to the news, saying it was a move to "shut me up".

Le Pen with anti-immigrant poster
He has argued France is at risk from the tide of immigrants
"I think that it is a major injustice and a sanction out of proportion with the minor incidents," he said.

"This incident will not stop me from continuing my fight," added the far-right leader, who has long said he will stand as a candidate in the next French presidential elections.

Mr Le Pen said he would appeal to the European Court of Justice.

Mr Le Pen has already lost his seat in the regional assembly of Provence Alpe-Cotes d'Azur, but will have served his penalty in time for presidential elections due in 2002.

Appeal to Chirac

Le Pen
His career began in street brawls in the 1950s
Mr Le Pen was convicted in April 1998 for assaulting Socialist candidate Annette Peulvast-Bergeal during campaigning for national elections the year before.

Four European Parliament deputies from Le Pen's National Front party appealed last week to French President Jacques Chirac to pardon him but have not received a response.

Le Pen, whose political career began as a student in street brawls in Paris in the early 1950s, has been involved in several public incidents leading to court cases.

His party has argued that too many immigrants mean too few jobs for French people, and that immigrants should be despatched back to the countries they came from.

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See also:

17 Nov 98 | Europe
Le Pen banned from politics
24 Jan 99 | Europe
The duel on the far-right
06 Oct 98 | Europe
France: a haven of intolerance?
06 Oct 98 | Europe
Le Pen can go to trial
28 Mar 99 | Europe
Le Pen launches Euro campaign
29 Jan 99 | From Our Own Correspondent
Le Pen: 'Comic book charmer'
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