European Union lawmakers overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday to lift the EU parliamentary immunity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen for tweeting violent images of the Islamic State (IS) group.
The offence being considered is “publishing violent images,” which under certain circumstances can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($79,650).
Le Pen’s immunity shielded her from prosecution; lifting it would permit legal action against her.
Le Pen, a member of the European parliament, is under investigation in France for posting three graphic images of IS group executions on Twitter in 2015, including the beheading of the United States journalist James Foley.
Responding to a request from the French judiciary, the EU lawmakers in the legal affairs committee voted to lift her immunity. The preliminary decision was confirmed Thursday by a large show of hands in the EU Parliament.
Le Pen and members of her anti-immigration National Front party have denounced the move in Brussels as a political witch hunt to destabilise her presidential campaign.
“Showing and naming the horror of Islamism allow us to fight against it,” Florian Philippot, the vice president of Le Pen’s far-right party, told Reuters.
Tight presidential race
Le Pen, locked in an increasingly tight three-way race to succeed Francois Hollande this spring, has already seen her earnings as MEP cut for a separate case involving alleged misuse of EU funds.
She has called for a moratorium on judicial investigations until the election period has passed.
Polls indicate Le Pen looks set to win the first round of the two-stage election, but that she would lose in the final second-round runoff. They clearly show that her legal battles seem to have little effect on her supporters.
Le Pen’s immunity has been lifted before, in 2013. She was then prosecuted in 2015 with “incitement to discrimination over people’s religious beliefs”, for comparing Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during World War Two.
Prosecutors eventually recommended the charges be dropped.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2017-03-02