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Le Pen in the crosshairs

July 2, 2013

The European Parliament has stripped far-right French lawmaker Marine Le Pen of her legal immunity so she can be prosecuted over a remark she made about Muslims in 2010. She now faces charges of inciting racial hatred.

President of French far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen speaks during a press conference on March 26, 2013 at the party's headquarters in Nanterre, near Paris. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU (Photo credit should read PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images

The leader of France's far-right National Front, Marine Le Pen, lost her right to legal immunity as a European Parliament deputy on Tuesday, which has exposed her to possible prosecution for inciting racial hatred.

Le Pen faces the charges for a 2010 comment comparing Muslim street prayers to the occupation of France by Nazi Germany during WWII.

Last year, prosecutors from France's eastern city of Lyon made the request to override Le Pen's right to immunity - which is traditionally granted to all members of parliament.

A majority of parliamentarians voted to ratify the decision a parliament official said after the hearing. The vote was followed by the parliament's judicial affairs committee recommendation last month that Le Pen's immunity be stripped.

Marine Le Pen 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, the party garnered nearly 18 percent of the vote.

Not backing down

On Monday, Le Pen repeated her 2010 comment.

She said her crime was to have "dared say what the French think."

"I will go to court with my head held high to explain that there have to be people in this country who tell the French the truth," she told LCI television, calling the charges a "thought crime."

If found guilty, she would face a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a possible 45,000 euro ($59,000) fine.

hc/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)