French prosecutors want Le Pen tried over tweet

Nanterre (France) (AFP) –


Prosecutors have called for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to be tried for tweeting pictures of atrocities committed by the Islamic State group, judicial sources said Friday.

This could hike further pressure on Le Pen, 50, who already faces legal problems over alleged misuse of EU parliamentary funds.

Le Pen shared the gruesome images in December 2015, a few weeks after IS jihadists killed 130 people in attacks in Paris. Her move sparking widespread condemnation in France.

Prosecutors demanded that another member of her National Rally party, Gilbert Collard, also be tried on similar charges.

It will be up to an investigative magistrate to decide whether a trial takes place, with a conviction for "circulating violent pictures liable to be seen by children" carrying a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($85,000).

Le Pen, who lost to Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential elections, was stripped of her parliamentary immunity over the pictures and charged with circulating violent messages.

Last year, she expressed outrage after the investigative magistrate called for her to undergo psychiatric tests in connection with her tweeting.

She has denounced the case against her as a violation of her freedom of expression.

Le Pen shared the images after a French journalist drew a comparison between the jihadist group and her party.

One of the pictures showed the body of James Foley, an American journalist beheaded by the Sunni extremists.

Another showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a tank and the third showed a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

"Daesh is this!" Le Pen wrote in a caption, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

She later deleted the picture of Foley after a request from his family, saying she had been unaware of his identity.

Le Pen, whose father Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the National Front party, since renamed National Rally, and other members of her party are also being probed in Brussels over allegations that they defrauded the European Union parliament out of 6.8 million euros in funding between 2009 and 2017.

The funds were allegedly used to pay for support staff not directly linked to EU work.

Le Pen has insisted she and the party are "completely innocent" and portrayed the case as politically motivated.

The National Rally is running a close second to Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party in the European parliamentary elections to be held May 23 to 26.

An Ifop Fiducial opinion poll in January found that 23 percent of voters said they would back LREM in the elections, with 21 percent saying they would support the National Rally.