The European Parliament has removed immunity of the French far right politician Marine Le Pen, which may lead to her prosecution for comparing Muslim immigration to the Nazi occupation of France.
She was accused of inciting racial hatred for comparing Muslim street prayers to the occupation of France by Nazi Germany. A Lyon court requested for her immunity to be removed three years ago. A majority of parliamentarians voted to ratify the decision.
A public trial in France would be a setback for the National Front (FN), a far-right party headed by Le Pen. The movement's popularity has been rising since the last election and it was hoping to grab seats from the ruling Socialist Party and mainstream right in local and European Parliament elections next year.
The request came from the prosecutor’s office in Lyon, where in December 2010 Ms Pen told FN supporters in a speech that the sight of Muslim’s praying was similar to Nazi soldiers occupying France between 1940 and 1944.
Her speech, which was broadcast by the French media, said that France was seeing “more and more veils and burkas, after that came praying on the streets, I’m sorry but some people are very fond of talking about the Second World War and about the occupation, so let’s talk about the occupation, because that is what is happening here, there are no tanks or soldiers, but it is still an occupation and it weighs on people.”
Speaking to the broadcaster LCI on Tuesday she said would lose her parliamentary immunity "because I'm a dissident", adding: "I'm not at all afraid of it, I'm scornful of it".
Marine Le Pen is known for her strong stance on immigration issues. She believes that stricter measures need to be taken to ensure France’s success as a nation as it strikes a balance between manual and intellectual work.
She says some deterrents need to be introduced so that immigrants will be deincentived from coming to France.
“Today there are even illegal immigrants who benefit from larger social aid that some French citizens can’t obtain,” she said on RT's SophieCo .
In 2011 France became the first country in the EU to ban the wearing of the niqab, a face covering Islamic veil for women, and praying in the street was banned in Paris as a result of growing far-right protests.
Ms Le Pen took 17.9 percent of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election last year.
As rising joblessness in France fuels the spread of her euro-skeptic anti-immigrant views, the EU part is gaining support at the expense of Hollande’s socialists.
One poll by YouGov in June showed that the FN may get as much as 18 percent of the vote in the May 2014 European elections. By comparison, when Le Len won her EU parliament seat in 2009 in the North-West region of France, her party managed just 6.3 percent of the vote.
Another web poll in May conducted by L’Internaute put her as France’s third most popular politician, one position behind the former president Nicholas Sarkozy and 24 places ahead of current president Hollande.
If found guilty she could face a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.
Her father Jean Marie Le Pen founded the French National Front and was stripped of his legal immunity as a French MEP for Holocaust denial in 1998 and was convicted under a similar charge.