• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

French far-right's Le Pen stripped of immunity

The Local/AFP · 2 Jul 2013, 12:56

Published: 02 Jul 2013 12:56 GMT+02:00

The European Parliament stripped National Front leader Marine Le Pen of her immunity as a lawmaker on Tuesday, leaving her open to face prosecution in France for inciting racial hatred over a speech she made denouncing the holding of Muslim prayers in the street.

Tuesday's decision was expected after a European Parliament judicial committee voted in favour of lifting Le Pen's immunity in a closed-door hearing last week. The committee agreed to a report proposing the lifting by 11 votes in favour, one against and four abstentions

The populist far-right leader, who was first elected to the European Parliament in 2004, said ahead of the vote that it was an attempt to "intimidate" her because she was "a dissident" and she invoked her right to freedom of expression.

Le Pen now faces the very real prospect of being prosecuted for inciting racial hatred in France for remarks she made in a speech to National Front (FN) supporters in December 2010.

OPINION: 'Why it was a mistake to strip Le Pen of her immunity

The far-right leader, who was present for the vote in the parliament's chamber in Strasbourg along with her father and National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, told France's BFMTV that the vote was a violation of her freedom of expression.

She said the lifting of her immunity "dishonours the European Parliament", adding: "I am a political adversary who is more dangerous than the others because of my results in the polls."

"I will now defend myself in court and I am absolutely convinced that it will rule in my favour and defend my right to tell the French the truth about the situation," she said.

She said that her views were shared by "a majority of French people" and that the lawmakers' vote "will bring to the fore the issue of daily violations against secularism in France".

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.

Story continues below…

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.

Tuesday's decision will be a blow to the party just as it was hoping to build up momentum ahead of the 2014 municipal elections. The National Front has been in confident mood after its candidate beat the Socialist party nominee into a second place in a parliamentary bi-election last month.

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

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Education in France
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Students in Lyon. Photo: AFP

Classrooms overflowing, a serious lack of funding, and a flailing reputation abroad... what exactly is wrong with France's university system? The Local's Oliver Gee takes a closer look.

Studying in France
How to survive Paris on a student budget
Are you a student in Paris? Here's how to save some money. Photo: AFP

With students from all over the world descending on Paris for the start of a new term, we take a look at the best ways to save money while living in the French capital on a shoestring.

Why are foreign students in France 'Europe's unhappiest'?
Students at a university in Normandy. Photo: AFP

... for the fourth year in a row.

Where in France has the cleanest and dirtiest air?
Photo: AFP

No, Paris doesn't have the dirtiest.

Court could give 'depressed' French nation right to smile
Photo: Jens Bergander/Flickr

"Is it really responsible, in a depressed France, that the authorities forbid the French from smiling... (on their ID photos)"

Is Hollande's last budget target really credible?
Photo: AFP

The president says the budget is "serious" but many would disagree.

China turns to Brittany cows to feed its babies
Photo: AFP

Far east giant provides a boost for Brittany's beleaguered dairy farmers.

France's 'fake tough guy' wobbles in comeback bid
Photo: AFP

The scandals are stacking up for Nicolas Sarkozy just at the wrong time.

Saudi princess 'told guard to kill Paris decorator'
Photo: Eurovizion/Flickr

"You have to kill this dog, he doesn't deserve to live," the princess allegedly said.

Paying for sex in France: New law has been 'catastrophic'
Photo: AFP

Prostitutes say new law to fine clients has been "catastrophic" but support groups say it "works well".

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Education
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Culture
The crazy French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
2,731
jobs available