French court is asked to ban anti-Semitic politician Le Pen

PARIS — A state prosecutor is seeking to de-fang France's best-known anti-Semite.

The prosecutor has asked a French court to sentence Jean-Marie Le Pen to three months in prison and ban him from public office for two years on charges that he assaulted a female politician during a legislative campaign last year.

The 69-year-old head of the xenophobic National Front was on trial last week for allegedly grabbing Socialist candidate Annette Peulvast by the collar of her blouse and shaking her violently while campaigning for his daughter, Caroline, two days before the final round of voting on June 1.

He is also accused of kicking two demonstrators hostile to his party and calling another "faggot."

Prosecutor Jean-Claude Dumaret also asked the court to strip Le Pen of his voting and civil rights for at least two years and fine him $3,300.

If the court agrees with the prosecutor's request, it would be the most severe blow to date for Le Pen, who has already been fined for such remarks as saying that the Nazi gas chambers were a "detail" of the history of World War II.

But it would not prevent him from running in regional elections next month because the sentence could not be applied until his appeals were exhausted. Le Pen has said he would appeal, which could take up to a few years.

Le Pen decried the prosecutor's request as a "plot" by France's government.

"With such methods, dictators wouldn't need gulags or concentration camps because they could get rid of political opponents behind a facade of pseudo-legality," Le Pen said in a statement.

He has, in turn, taken legal action against several anti-National Front demonstrators on charges they infringed upon his right to campaign.

A videotape shot by an amateur shows the heavyset politician brawling with Peulvast, who was town mayor.

Peulvast, who went on to beat Caroline Le Pen for the National Assembly seat, was slightly hurt in the incident. She is asking for $16,500 in damages.

Le Pen led several thousand supporters Saturday in a rally in the Paris suburb of Versailles, the site of his trial, lambasting the government with the slogan, "Communists, assassins, socialists, swindlers!"

The National Front claims some 15 percent of the nationwide vote on a platform advocating the expulsion of some 4 million immigrants, reserving jobs and housing for French-born nationals.