The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen faces prosecution for “inciting religious hatred” after a European Parliament committee decided to lift her parliamentary immunity.
In 2010, Ms Le Pen, 44, compared the overspill of Muslim prayer meetings on to French streets to the Nazi occupation in the Second World War. A criminal investigation has been launched in France into the “provocation of violence and hatred against a group for religious reasons”.
As an MEP, Ms le Pen cannot be investigated or tried for a crime unless most members of the European Parliament agrees. The assembly seems almost certain to take this step on 2 July after its judicial affairs committee voted that Ms Le Pen should be stripped of her immunity.
Although her father, and predecessor as National Front president, Jean-Marine Le Pen, has convictions for making racist comments, this would be the first prosecution of its kind for her.
Since she became NF president in 2011, she has pursued a largely successful strategy of “de-demonising” the party by avoiding outright race-baiting and stressing economic, social and anti-European themes. She hopes to cash in on this strategy by seeing her candidate win a parliamentary by-election at Villeneuve-sur-Lot in south west France on Sunday.
The by-election was forced by the resignation of the former Socialist budget minister, Jeromé Cahuzac after a tax scandal.