A European Parliament committee has voted to lift immunity rights from French MEP Marine Le Pen. The decision followed a request by French prosecutors trying to charge her with inciting religious hatred in a 2010 speech.
A preliminary vote by the European Parliament's legal affairs committee could pave the way for the EP to strip Marine Le Pen of her immunity from prosecution. EP spokesperson Jaume Duch Guillot confirmed the news on Saturday, adding that the final vote would take place on June 14.
A spokesperson from Le Pen's National Front party called the attempt politically motivated.
"Since she cannot be silenced in the polls people try to silence her through the courts," said National Front Vice President Florian Philippot.
"They want to silence her because she dares to tell the truth ... It would be much better to devote energy to the problem of street prayers," he added.
Last year, prosecutors from France's eastern city of Lyon asked the EP to override Le Pen's right to immunity - which is traditionally granted to all members of parliament - in light of a case claiming that she had incited racial hatred in a speech.
Speech against 'street prayers'
An anti-racism group is seeking to bring charges against Le Pen for remarks she made at a 2010 rally, in which she had compared Muslims praying in France's streets to the Nazi occupation in the early 1940s.
"I'm sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War II, if we're talking about occupation, we could talk about that [street prayers], because that is clearly an occupation of the territory," she said in her 2010 speech. "This is an occupation of parts of our territory. ... There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same and it weighs on people."
Marine Le Pen, 44, was first elected to the European Parliament in 2004. She took over the leadership of France's National Front in 2011, replacing her father, Jean-Marie, who founded the right-wing party.
The National Front promotes conservative social values and has maintained a reputation for outspokenness against Muslim immigration to France. During the 2012 presidential election, it garnered nearly 18 percent of the vote.
kms/av (AP, AFP, Reuters)