Anti-corruption investigators on Tuesday raided the home and party headquarters of French far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who broadcast the raids live from his mobile phone.
The raids, part of a long-running investigation into the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay party employees, took place at the offices of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) in central Paris and Mélenchon's private residence.
Shouting “Resistance!”, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the party's headquarters to protest against the police action.
Police blocked Mélenchon from entering the premises as the far-left firebrand threatened to break down the door if he was not allowed in.
"Who gave you these orders?" he demanded a police officer blocking the entrance. "I am a parliamentarian!"
Amid the scuffle Mélenchon yelled, "I am the Republic."
"This is a politically motivated act, it's an act of political aggression," Mélenchon said. Amid chaotic scenes outside the building, he slammed a “coup de force” by “politicised” police.
A source close to the raids, which targeted 15 locations and included another left-wing party, said they were being carried out by a specialist anti-corruption unit that focuses on financial and tax irregularities.
Two investigations are under way, one looking into the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay party employees in France, and the other examining funding of Mélenchon's French presidential campaign last year.
Several French parties have been targeted over their use of European Parliament funds, including Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally (formerly called the National Front) and the centrist Modem party.
Lawmakers elected to the European Parliament are allocated funds to cover expenses, including the running of their offices in Brussels and Strasbourg and assistants' salaries, but they cannot use the money to pay for party staff at home.
Last week, a French judge stepped up the inquiry into Le Pen, with a source inside her party saying she was now being investigated for possible embezzlement of public funds, having previously been questioned over breach of trust.
‘They will not scare me’
Mélenchon, 67, frequently denounces President Emmanuel Macron for backing laws favouring the wealthy and right-wing voters.
A member of the European Parliament from 2009-17, he was eliminated in the first round of the presidential election last year, coming fourth. He said he had nothing to fear from the investigations.
"I've asked for all my campaign accounts to be re-examined," he said, draped in the red-white-and-blue sash of a member of the French lower house, the National Assembly.
"I'm not afraid of anyone. These people can invade my house, my party headquarters and my movement, but they will not scare me. We haven't stolen anything. We are honest," he added.
Responding to allegations that Tuesday’s police raids were politically motivated, French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe emphasized that the independence of the judiciary is guaranteed by the French constitution.
"There's no individual instruction given to the prosecutor,” Philippe said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2018-10-17