Marine Le Pen loses immunity over Muslim ‘occupation’ comments
National Front leader can now be prosecuted in France for inciting hatred
Marine Le Pen: “I note that immunity is maintained for deputies who put their hand in the till, but not for political opinions.” Photograph: Vincent Kessler /Reuters
The European Parliament yesterday lifted the immunity of the leader of the National Front (FN) and MEP Marine Le Pen, so she can be prosecuted in France for inciting hatred.
Last December, Ms Le Pen compared Muslims praying in French streets to the Nazi occupation of France.
Fifteen years ago, her father Jean-Marie, the founder of the FN, also had his immunity lifted for saying the Nazi gas chambers were “a detail of the second World War”.
At a rally during her campaign for leadership of the FN on December 10th, 2012, Ms Le Pen spoke of the street prayers that take place because there is insufficient room in mosques:
“I’m sorry, but for those who like talking so much about the second World War, if we’re talking about occupation, we could talk about it, because it’s an occupation. There aren’t tanks or soldiers, but it’s an occupation all the same.”
Ms Le Pen’s statement raised an outcry. The Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP) and the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) filed lawsuits as civil plaintiffs for “provoking discrimination, violence and hatred towards a group of persons because of their religion”.
The legal affairs commission of the European Parliament endorsed a report recommending the lifting of Ms Le Pen’s immunity on June 19th. She had been invited to defend herself before the commission in March, April and May, but declined.
Three members of the FN are MEPs: Ms Le Pen, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen and Bruno Gollnisch. Mr Gollnisch said yesterday’s vote was worthy of “the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union”. He was booed by the assembly.
In her reaction, Ms Le Pen said she had the right to freedom of expression. “There will be a trial, and I hope to win it . . . I note that immunity is maintained for deputies who put their hand in the till, but not for political opinions.”
In a separate development, Delphine Batho, the French minister for ecology, sustainable development and energy, was sacked by President François Hollande yesterday.
Ms Batho had denounced the draft budget, which cut 7 per cent from her ministry’s funding, as “bad”. She was replaced by the deputy Philippe Martin, who is president of the friendship group for Britain and Northern Ireland in the National Assembly.
Mr Hollande has been criticised in the past for failing to discipline ministers who criticised government policy.
Noël Mamère, a prominent ecologist deputy, said the slashed budget showed “a certain form of duplicity on the part of the president of the republic and the prime minister, who swear they want an energy transition while they push ecology into the closet.”