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Far right's Le Pen faces prospect of prosecution

Published: 20 Jun 2013 08:06 GMT+02:00

The European Parliament's judicial committee on Wednesday gave its green light to the possible lifting of the immunity of far-right French MEP Marine Le Pen ahead of a vote in July.

In a closed-door hearing the committee agreed to a report proposing the lifting by 11 votes in favour, one against and four abstentions, opening the way to a vote in plenary session in the French city of Strasbourg on July 2.

French authorities asked the parliament in November to lift Le Pen's immunity as a lawmaker so she can be prosecuted for remarks likening Islamic prayers to the Nazi occupation.

The remarks were made in a speech to National Front (FN) supporters in December 2010.

In the speech she denounced the holding of Muslim prayers in the streets of France - where a dearth of mosques has forced many to pray outside - saying:

"For those who like to talk about World War II, 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."

Prosecutors in Lyon, where the speech took place, opened an investigation into the remarks for "inciting racial hatred".

As with many national parliaments, members of the European Parliament enjoy immunity from criminal and civil liability for opinions expressed as part of their duties, unless the chamber votes to lift the immunity.

FN vice president Florian Philippot told AFP earlier this month that he would wait for the full parliament's vote, adding that it would be unheard of if Le Pen lost her immunity "for having spoken the truth about the (Muslim) prayers in the streets which still take place.... The French do not like when people hide the truth from them."

Le Pen took over the FN from her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.

Marine Le Pen, who was first elected to the European Parliament in 2004, won 18 percent of the vote in the first round of France's presidential election in April 2012, the party's highest-ever score.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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