Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen could be called upon by EU lawmakers to discuss lifting her parliamentary immunity. The National Front leader is being investigated over alleged misuse of EU funds.
European Union lawmakers could summon French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen to discuss the lifting of her immunity over the alleged misuse of European Union money, before the second round of the French election on May 7, an influential legislator said on Saturday.
"The legal affairs committee has agreed that Le Pen will be summoned for a hearing on the first possible date in May," Laura Ferrara, the deputy chair of the committee, told Reuters.
Le Pen denounces legal proceedings
Ferrara's comments on Saturday follow a request from French judges on Friday for the European Parliament to lift Le Pen's parliamentary immunity to permit further investigations over alleged misuse of funds to pay for party assistants.
Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (FN), has denounced legal proceedings against her as political interference.
Before stripping a lawmaker of their immunity, the EU parliament's legal affairs committee usually arranges a hearing with the accused, with an actual decision following a few months later.
Ferrara, who is a member of the Italian eurosceptic 5 Star Movement, said that Le Pen may decide not to appear before the parliamentary committee.
Sanctions already in place
The European Parliament has already sanctioned Le Pen for misusing EU funds. Since February the far-right nationalist's monthly salary as an MEP has been cut by half to around 3,000 euros ($3,184) and other allowances have been withdrawn. The current investigation aims at establish whether other sanctions are warranted.
Last month, Le Pen was also stripped of her parliamentary immunity in a separate case, allowing a Paris court to prosecute her for posting images of "Islamic State" (IS) brutality on Twitter in 2015. In France, the offence can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($79,567).
Macron leading in opinion polls
Dogged by scandal, Le Pen's ratings in opinion polls have suffered in recent weeks. A BVA poll published on Friday sees Le Pen make the second round of the presidential election with 22 percent of the vote. A runoff against independent Emmanuel Macron, however, would see Le Pen lose with 36 percent.