Le Pen loses immunity for anti-Semitic comment

French politician may be prosecuted after calling for French Jew to be put in an oven.


Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen

The European Parliament lifted the immunity of French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen over charges of inciting racial hatred against Jews.

The legal affairs committee of the European Parliament stressed that parliamentary immunity “does not allow for slandering, libeling, inciting hatred or pronouncing statements attacking a person’s honor” before voting on Tuesday in favor of lifting Le Pen’s immunity.

French prosecutors want to put the founder and former leader of the National Front party on trial for comments he made in 2014 about the French Jewish singer Patrick Bruel. Le Pen said Bruel should “go in the oven.” His comment, which he made during a filmed interview that he had posted on the National Front website, led to his exclusion from the party. It is now run by his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who plans to run next year for French president.

Tuesday’s vote is the fourth time the 88 year-old has had his immunity lifted. In 1998, Germany made the request after Le Pen famously called Nazi gas chambers “a detail of history.”

Separately, also on Tuesday, the European Parliament amended a draft report on Iran to include in it rebuke for Tehran’s Holocaust denial and anti-Israel hate speech.

The draft document, which set principles for normalization of European Union relations with Iran following the agreement to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for the scaling back of its nuclear program, originally contained one single criticism of Iran, regarding its use of the death penalty. It did not mention Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, support for Holocaust denial, or threats to destroy Israel.

If passed in its original form, the draft risked dealing “a serious blow to the standing of the European Parliament as a defender of human rights, justice and freedom,” Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s EU Office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute, warned in a statement.

After Tuesday’s vote, Schwammenthal said: “We salute Parliament’s principled stand on this critical issue. Unfortunately, another crucial amendment calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners and an end to systematic torture and other improvements to the text were rejected.”

With 590 in favor, 67 against, and 36 abstentions, lawmakers at a plenary in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday overwhelmingly backed the amendment, put forward by Dutch Liberal parliamentarian Marietje Schaake.

The parliament “strongly condemns the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and the regime’s policy of denying the Holocaust,” the final report read.