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MARINE LE PEN

Le Pen to face trial for Muslim prayers rant

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front, has been ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation, legal sources said Tuesday.

Le Pen to face trial for Muslim prayers rant
Marine Le Pen compared Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi Occupation of France. Photo: AFP

Le Pen made the comparison in December 2010 while campaigning for the presidency of her party, and a judicial enquiry was opened into the matter in 2012.

In the speech she denounced the holding of Muslim prayers in the streets of France – where a dearth of mosques had 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.”

 “It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied. Sure, there are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless and it weighs on residents.”

The move to put her on trial comes after the the European Parliament has stripped National Front leader of her immunity as a lawmaker In July 2013.

That decision left her open to face prosecution in France.

The populist far-right leader, who was first elected to the European Parliament in 2004, has said that the move by the EU was an attempt to “intimidate” her because she was “a dissident” and she invoked her right to freedom of expression.

“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 at the time.

Le Pen believes her views are 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”.

Tuesday's announcement will be a blow to the party just as it was hoping to build up momentum ahead of the regional elections in December and the presidential election in 2017, in which Le Pen is expected to perform strongly.

Some political analysts doubt however that putting Marine Le Pen on trial is the right move.

“She will no doubt try to turn this to her advantage and make herself out to be the victim of some kind of plot between the mainstream parties, who have had her right to free speech taken away from her,” French far-right specialist Jean-yves Camus told The Local.

“If they really wanted to deal with Marine Le Pen it would have been much wiser for the mainstream political parties to just concentrate on themselves and on what they say. For example, the more the centre-right party talks about Islam the more they give legitimacy to the National Front.”

But anti-racism campaigners say whether or not Le Pen's enjoy's the publicity, the right thing to do is put up before a judge.

“What Marine Le Pen said was disgraceful. When we take people to court as an organization we always ask ourselves: 'Is this person going to get publicity out of it and will they benefit?', but you cannot decide on these grounds,” Philippe Schmidt from the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA) told The Local.

“If the person simply has to be prosecuted for what they've said, then that's the most important factor to consider, especially if it's the state that is prosecuting. The most important thing to consider is not whether she will be able to claim she is a victim but simply whether what she said was illegal.”

 

 

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DEMONSTRATION

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France

Tens of thousands of people across France on Saturday marched against "attacks on freedoms" and what organisers said was a growing influence of far-right ideas ahead of next year's presidential elections.

Tens of thousands march against far-right in France
A "Freedom march" called by several organisations, associations and trade unions to "combat extreme right-wing ideas" on June 12. credit: SAMEER AL-DOUMY / AFP

Members of more than 100 left-leaning organisations participated in the “Liberty March” in cities and towns across the country.

The protests were the first opportunity for a divided left to take to the streets after a year and a half of Covid-19 restrictions.

Organisers reported 70,000 participants in Paris and 150,000 around the nation, while the Paris police and interior ministry put the numbers at 9,000 in the capital and 37,000 nationwide.

The interior ministry said 119 rallies had taken place.

In Nantes, western France, around 900 people rallied, according to the local prefecture, including scores of far-left militants who clashed with police.

In the Mediterranean port of Marseilles, more than a thousand demonstrators marched behind a CGT union banner that called for “unity to break down the capitalism that leads to fascism”.

Protesters vented against issues ranging from recent legislation they say chips away at liberties, such as a law that could see prosecutions for publishing images of police officers in action, to what they charge is a creep of far-right ideas into the mainstream ahead of next year’s elections.

In the southern city of Toulouse, a 54-year-old teacher and union activist who gave his name as Gauthier remarked that students had begun to challenge him and warned that “extreme right ideas are gaining ground”.

Far-right ideas “are no longer the monopoly of far-right parties and … have now largely penetrated the political class,” said Benoit Hamon, the Socialist presidential candidate in 2017.

In Paris, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon had flour thrown in his face as he spoke to reporters.

A suspect arrested later in the day claimed to be a “sovereigntist” who social network specialists said broadcast far-right commentary on YouTube.

The move against Melenchon, who has been accused of fuelling conspiracy theories ahead of the presidential election, came days after President Emmanuel Macron was slapped in the face while shaking hands with people on a regional visit.

Other events that have caused concern in France recently are allegations of ties between far-left figures including Melenchon and Islamists, a YouTube video that simulated the execution of a militant from his France Unbowed party, and university gatherings at which Caucasian participants were allegedly not allowed to speak.

Jordan Bardella, vice president of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, dismissed the demonstrations on Saturday as a bid to deflect attention from Melenchon’s remarks on terrorism and the 2022 presidential election.

Groups that took part included Socialists, Communists, ecologists and trade unions.

READ MORE: Calls for nationwide day of demonstrations in France against ‘far-right ideology’

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