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France Far Right Leader Heckled

December 27, 1997

PARIS (AP) _ The leader of France’s extreme right was heckled during a stopover at the Martinique airport by protesters who object to his statement that Nazi gas chambers were merely ``a detail of history.″

The demonstrators in Martinique, a French territorial island in the Caribbean, denounced National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen on Friday for saying history would regard the gas chambers as essentially insignificant.

More than 6 million people, the vast majority of them Jews, were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust, and many died in gas chambers.

A French court convicted Le Pen on Friday of contesting crimes against humanity for saying the chambers were a ``detail in history.″ Le Pen has been sued numerous times for racist or anti-Semitic remarks, winning some cases and losing others.

At the airport, about 50 protesters forced open the door to the transit lounge and began pushing and shoving Le Pen, who punched back. No injuries were reported.

``This is impossible,″ shouted Le Pen, reported France’s LCI television.

Police escorted Le Pen back to his plane, which took off for Puerto Rico, where French television reported he planned to take a vacation.

The National Front won 15 percent of the first-round vote in legislative elections this spring by blaming immigrants for the country’s crime and high unemployment.

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