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French National Front founder in hospital amid trial

The founder and former leader of France’s far-right National Front is being treated in hospital for exhaustion, after being rushed in on the day a verdict was due in his hate speech trial.

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 89, was suffering from “general fatigue” when he was admitted to a hospital near Paris, his lawyer Frederic Joachim told the court.

Mr Joachim showed the court a hospital certificate saying his client had been admitted “in an emergency, for an undetermined time”.

However, one of Mr Le Pen’s advisers said he should be leaving on Monday.

Jean-Marie Le Pen delivers a speech during a rally to honour Joan of Arc in Paris
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Jean-Marie Le Pen speaking at a rally to honour Joan of Arc in Paris in 2017

The politician, who led the National Front for almost 40 years until 2011, is being prosecuted on charges of inciting hatred and violence for comments in which he linked homosexuality with paedophilia.

In the remarks, made between 2015 and 2016, he also suggested gay couples should keep out of the public eye.

The octogenarian, who reached the second round of the 2002 presidential election, but lost to incumbent Jacques Chirac, has a reputation for making outrageous remarks.

Mr Le Pen's memoirs were published in 2018
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Mr Le Pen’s memoirs were published in 2018

In 1987, he said the Nazi gas chambers, where million of Jews were exterminated during the Second World War, were just “a detail of history”, for which he was handed a 1.2m francs (£161,358) fine.

He was then fined €30,000 (£24,000) in 2016 for repeating those remarks the year before.

Mr Le Pen has also claimed the Nazi occupation of the northern half of France was “not particularly inhumane” and that the Ebola epidemic that swept West Africa in 2014 could help “solve” Europe’s “immigration problem”.

In recent years the MEP, who turns 90 next week, has become as famous for his fractious relationship with his daughter as his political ambitions.

Marine Le Pen addresses the crowd after the first round of the French presidential Election
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Marine Le Pen lost in the second round of the 2017 French presidential election

Marine Le Pen succeeded her father as National Front leader, but has sought to distance herself from his toxic legacy, kicking him out of the party in 2015 and changing its name to National Rally earlier this month, against his wishes.

Mr Le Pen was in hospital for about a week in April because of flu and a “dangerous pulmonary complication”, his aide Lorrain de Saint Affrique said, and received treatment in hospital for a heart problem in April 2015.

The hate speech case has been adjourned until 3 October.

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