France Asks European Parliament to Lift Le Pen Immunity
Prosecutors in the French city of Lyon have requested that the European Parliament strip National Front leader Marine Le Pen of her immunity so she can be prosecuted for comparing Muslim prayers to the Nazi occupation, officials said Monday.
Justice ministry spokesman Pierre Rance told AFP the request was sent to European Parliament President Martin Schulz late last month.
The request was reportedly related to an ongoing judicial probe into remarks made by Le Pen in a speech to supporters of her Front National party in December 2010, during with she denounced public Islamic prayers on the streets of France.
"For those who like to talk about World War II, to talk about occupation, we could talk bout, for once, the occupation of our territory,” she said. “This is an occupation of parts of our territory… There are no armored 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" in January 2011 following a complaint from an anti-racism group.
Like 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.
Le Pen took over the Front National from her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, after the parliament voted in 1998 to revoke his immunity over his declaration that the Holocaust was a "detail" of history. He was later convicted of trivializing the Holocaust.
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.