Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right Front National, is expected to face charges of incitement to racial hatred in France after the European parliament voted to lift her parliamentary immunity.
The French state prosecutor in Lyon had asked the European parliament to lift Le Pen’s protection from prosecution as an MEP so she could face charges over a speech in 2010 in which she likened Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation of France.
The case threatens to upset Le Pen’s careful public relations strategy since taking over the party from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She had sought to project a modern, more palatable face of the far-right in France, free from the type of comments about the second world war and Holocaust denial that resulted in her father being convicted of contesting crimes against humanity.
Marine Le Pen, who has been an MEP since 2004, this week called herself a dissident who was being pursued for political reasons for a “crime of opinion” and said she stood by her comments.
In December 2010 during her party’s internal leadership campaign she made a speech in Lyon that denounced Muslims holding prayers in the streets, at a time when a lack of mosques in France had forced many to pray outside.
She likened the outside prayers to an occupation and added: “For those who like to talk about world war two, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory. There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same, and it weighs on people.”
Previously she had said of street prayers: “Very clearly, like in 1940, some think that they can behave in France in 2010 like an occupying army in a conquered country.”
See also “UKIP vote to protect Le Pen from prosecution for incitement to racial hatred”, Arlene McCarthy MEP press release, 2 July 2013