French court acquits far-right party founder Le Pen for anti-Semitic “ oven ” joke

PARIS, France – A French court on Friday acquitted the 93-year-old founder of France’s main far-right party, Jean-Marie Le Pen, of charges of incitement to racial hatred with comments directed at a Jewish pop singer.

Le Pen has a string of hate speech convictions that ultimately led to his daughter Marine Le Pen ousting him from the National Front leadership in 2015, in an attempt to achieve widespread respectability.

Veteran Le Pen has continued to provoke outrage with statements about Jews, Muslims, blacks and immigrants, even with his insistence that the Nazi gas chambers were just one “detail” of WWII history.

The latest judgment comes from a 2014 video on the match’s website in which Le Pen criticized artists who denounced his extremist stances, such as Madonna and French tennis star-turned-singer Yannick Noah.

When asked about French singer and actor Patrick Bruel, Le Pen addressed his Jewish origins with a pun that evokes the Holocaust: “I’m not surprised. Listen, next time we’ll make a full batch of oven! “

The mockery sparked a torrent of outrage, including from her own party leaders, and Marine Le Pen criticized what she called a “political error.”

Jean-Marie Le Pen claimed that the comments had no anti-Semitic overtones “except to my political enemies or morons.”

French singer Patrick Bruel (Wikimedia Commons, Georges Biard, CC BY-SA 3.0)

The court disagreed, and the presiding judge said Friday that Le Pen had clearly addressed Jews with his comment.

However, he added that while he had obviously “enjoyed” delighting a crowd of supporters with his play on words, the statement did not amount to “inciting discrimination and violence.”

The one-day trial, which was held in Le Pen’s absence in September, had been delayed for years while he claimed immunity from prosecution as a member of the European Parliament, a seat he won in 1984 and held until 2019.

But his fellow lawmakers stripped him of legal protections on the case in 2016.

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