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French court fines Jean-Marie Le Pen for Roma comment

Jean-Marie Le Pen leaves the courthouse of Aix-en-Provence, on January 23, 2017, after his appeal trial for remarks held about Roma people.
Jean-Marie Le Pen leaves the courthouse of Aix-en-Provence, on January 23, 2017, after his appeal trial for remarks held about Roma people. AFP/Boris Horvat

The father of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen was ordered on Monday to pay 5,000 euros after losing his appeal against a conviction for describing people from the Roma minority as "smelly". 

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An court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence found Jean-Marie Le Pen, the 88-year-old founder of the far-right National Front (FN) party, guilty of inciting hate and making racist statements at a press conference in Nice in 2013.

On 4 July, 2013 Le Pen said: "It appears you have a problem with several hundred Roma who have an irritating and, let's say, smelly presence in this city [Nice]."

It is the ninth time since the early 1990s that Le Pen, who has repeatedly referred to the Holocaust as a "detail of history", has been convicted for racist or negationnist statements.

"I stick by these terms because it is what I think," Le Pen said at an earlier hearing.

"Jean-Marie Le Pen's words were extremely serious and an open call to hate and ethnic discrimination," said Sonny Phung of the anti-racism group SOS Racisme, which will receive 2,000 euros of Le Pen's fine.

The Roma minority largely come from Bulgaria and Romania, and are often stigmatised in France where they have been accused of being responsible for a rise in petty crime.

In recent years, Jean Marie Le Pen has had a high-profile falling out with his daughter after she took over the reins of the party and has sought to purge it of its more extreme elements.

Marine Le Pen is currently forecast to win the first round of France's presidential election on 23 April but lose the all-important 7 May runoff to either centrist Emmanuel Macron or conservative François Fillon.

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