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Marine Le Pen cleared of charges in hate speech case

A French court has dismissed charges against far-right leader Marine Le Pen for allegedly hateful comments she made in 2010. The National Front leader had compared Muslims praying on the streets to the Nazi occupation.

The Lyon court sided with the prosecutor on Tuesday, agreeing to throw out the case in which Le Pen was accused of "inciting discrimination, violence or hatred toward a group of people based on their religious beliefs." The prosecution had said at the start of the trial that it did not think it had enough evidence for a conviction.

Le Pen, the controversial leader of the far-right National Front (FN) party founded by her father, Jean-Marie, seemed to liken Muslims praying on the streets of France to Nazi occupiers in World War II, during a 2010 campaign trail speech to supporters.

"I am sorry, but for those who love to talk about World War II, and about the occupation, one could talk about this [Muslims praying on the street] for once, because it is an occupation of territory," she said.

Acquittal days after elections

The trial against Le Pen began in October. At the time, Le Pen insisted she was

the victim of political correctness,

and many observers believed the case would help - not hinder - her.

Indeed, the decision to acquit her came two days after her party garnered a

historic number

of votes in regional elections, even though the party's performance

was more muted

in the decisive second round of voting.

If convicted, Le Pen could have faced up to a year in prison. Her father Jean-Marie was convicted several times on such charges, but was never jailed.

The FN, however, is still facing legal challenges of its own, including fraud charges connected to campaign financing.

blc/msh (AP, AFP)

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