French far-rightist fined for Holocaust remarks

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A French court handed a leading far-right French politician a three-month suspended jail sentence and fined him 5,000 euros ($6,500) on Thursday for questioning the Holocaust.

The Lyon court found Bruno Gollnisch, No. 2 in the far-right National Front party, had "disputed a crime against humanity" in remarks he made during a news conference in the eastern French city on October 11, 2004.

The judge also ordered Gollnisch to pay 55,000 euros in damages to the plaintiffs, and to pay for the judgment to be published in the newspapers that originally printed his remarks.

Gollnisch was not in court for the verdict because he was attending a session of the European Parliament, where he recently became the leader of a new far-right political group called Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty.

In its ruling the court said Gollnisch had called into question the number of Jews killed during World War Two and whether gas chambers had been used to kill them.

"Historians have the right to discuss the number of deaths and the way that they died. Fifty years after the facts we can discuss the real number of deaths," Gollnisch was quoted as saying at the time.

He also said that the "existence of the gas chambers is for historians to discuss."

Gollnisch said in a statement that he would appeal against Thursday's verdict. "This scandal goes beyond my personal case in a country that is otherwise the most advanced in the world in the area of freedom of expression," he said.

"Nothing is more unbearable than the injustice of the justice. I will naturally appeal this ruling," he added.

Gollnisch's boss in the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has also run into trouble over his comments on the Holocaust.

Le Pen, who shocked France by coming second in the 2002 presidential election, was convicted and fined for inciting racial hatred in 1990, and again for saying in 1996 that the Nazi gas chambers were "merely a detail" of World War Two.

He faces another trial next year for saying in 2005 that "the German occupation was not particularly inhumane." In December he said anti-Semitism can be funny and in June he said the French soccer team had too many black players.

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