The Latest: Fillon holds rally in southern France amid probe

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 15, 2017 at 1:04 p.m.

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PARIS (AP) — The Latest on France's presidential campaign (all times local):

7:55 p.m.

French presidential hopeful Francois Fillon says he might have made mistakes but has asked the French people to judge him on his 36-year career in elected office to serve the nation.

He is facing preliminary charges in an investigation of taxpayer-funded jobs his wife and children received but allegedly never performed.

Fillon, the candidate of the conservative Republicans party, has held a rally in the southern town of Pertuis a day after appearing before judges.

He said that "here I am to tell you I'm not bowing down."

"I am a patriot who gave the best of himself ... I might have made mistakes, but who didn't?"

Hundreds of his supporters chanted "Fillon, president."

A few dozen people have protested outside of the rally to denounce Fillon's candidacy amid justice investigation.

Fillon is accused of misusing public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds, complicity in misusing public funds and improper declaration of assets, among other charges.


5 p.m.

France's far-right National Front party, whose leader Marine Le Pen is a top presidential candidate, has announced the suspension of a regional official for doubting the Holocaust in a new documentary.

Party secretary general Nicolas Bay announced on Wednesday that Benoit Loeuillet would be summoned before the National Front's disciplinary committee "with a view to his exclusion."

The party official for the southern region, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the leader's niece, was more abrupt, saying in a tweet that Loeuillet is no longer in the party's southern group.

The quick action came ahead of the airing Wednesday night of a documentary on the anti-immigration party's attraction to youth.

The French press widely quoted Loeuillet appearing in the film that was made with a hidden camera saying there were no "mass deaths" in the Holocaust.


3:30 p.m.

French Socialist hopeful Benoit Hamon is struggling to keep party leaders united behind his candidacy amid division over economic views.

Hamon will hold a rally in the southern city of Nice on Wednesday, a day after former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he wouldn't give him his endorsement for the April-May election.

Hamon defeated Valls in the Socialist primary in January.

He is now campaigning on a hard-left economic platform that contrasts with more pro-business views of some center-left leaning Socialists, including Valls.

Valls didn't say if he would support independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron instead.

Polls show Macron, along with far-right leader Marine le Pen, is likely to advance to the second round of the presidential election, while Hamon could be eliminated in the first round.


10:05 a.m.

French presidential candidate Francois Fillon, facing charges in an investigation of taxpayer-funded jobs his wife and children received but allegedly never performed, says the justice system is being manipulated to affect the election.

In an interview Wednesday with Radio Classique, Fillon said he believed the goal was to ensure "that the right and the center have no candidate. That way it will be simpler: It will be a debate between the left and Madame (Marine) Le Pen."

A top contender in a French presidential election never has reached such a critical step in a criminal investigation, yet Fillon has vowed to keep campaigning less than six weeks before the first-round vote.

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