French deputy must defend Holocaust comments
BRUSSELS — EU lawmakers refused Tuesday to grant immunity from prosecution to a French far right-wing deputy for remarks about the Nazi gas chambers, in a case threatening to embarrass the EU assembly.
After four times delaying a vote on Bruno Gollnisch, number two in France's extreme right National Front, the parliament's legal affairs committee voted overwhelmingly not to give him protection as a member of the European parliament (MEP) from court proceedings.
Gollnisch was charged over his comments at a press conference last year which trod a fine line on the edge of French laws against calling into question crimes against humanity.
The committee chairwoman, British MEP Diana
Wallis, said her panel felt that the way Gollnisch had acted "was not fairly and fully and squarely within the member's exercise of his duties as a member of this parliament."
"We are not in any way entering into a debate on the nature of the charge in France or the nature of the law in France," she said.
Speaking in Lyon, France, in October 2004, Gollnisch said: "I do not deny the existence of deadly gas chambers. But I'm not a specialist on this issue, and I think we have to let the historians debate it."
He did not contest the "hundreds of thousands, the millions of deaths" during the Holocaust, but added: "As to the way those people died, a debate should take place."
Four days later, then French justice minister Dominique Perben, who is now transport minister and intends to run against Gollnisch in 2007 municipal elections, ordered police in Lyon to launch an inquiry.
They found he had no case to answer but Perben insisted charges be laid.
The trial of Gollnisch, who claims he is being persecuted by Perben, was scheduled for September but was pushed back until November 29 so that parliament could rule on his immunity.
The EU assembly will vote on the committee's recommendation in full session next week. In the unlikely event that it votes against the committee's advice, the case against Gollnisch would probably have to be dropped.