Jun. 1, 2013 (TSR) – The leader of France’s far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, may face racism charges over comments made in 2011 after a European parliamentary committee stripped her of immunity from prosecution, which she was granted while working as a MEP.
France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen could face criminal charges for inciting racism after losing the immunity from prosecution afforded to her as a member of the European Parliament.
The French authorities attempted to try Le Pen, head of France’s National Front (FN) party, back in 2011 over comments she made comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France.
But the case had to be dropped as Le Pen’s status as an MEP meant she was immune from prosecution.
Now, however, it has emerged that this immunity was ‘unanimously’ rescinded in a secret vote held by a European parliamentary committee this week.
Though the move will still need to be ratified by the full parliament, it could allow French prosecutors to reopen their case against Le Pen, which stems from comments she made in December 2010 – during her spell as vice-president of the FN – at a meeting of around 300 party faithful in the southern French city of Lyon.
“For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about [Muslim prayers in the streets],” she said. “There may not be any tanks or soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation.”
The comments sparked outrage in the French press and among many sections of the public at the time.
Nevertheless, Le Pen and the FN, of which she became leader in January 2011 after succeeding her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity and she gained a surprisingly high 18 per cent of the vote in the first round of France’s presidential elections in 2012.
Meanwhile, France’s Muslim population – thought to number more than two million – and its integration into French society, remains a hot button issue in the country.
Recent events, including bans on wearing the Islamic veil in public and praying in the streets, as well as incidents such as the apparently religiously motivated stabbing of a French soldier by a convert to Islam near Paris on Wednesday, have served to further heighten tensions.
Source: FRANCE 24 with wires