Far right leader, Marine Le Pen, is widely expected to face criminal charges after MEPs in the legal affairs committee today voted overwhelmingly in favour of waiving her immunity.
Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front party, is likely to face an investigation by French authorities over racist remarks aimed at the Muslim community during a party rally in December 2010.
As with most national parliaments, the French MEP enjoyed protection from prosecution with her European Parliamentary immunity; however today’s vote is likely to leave the politician in a precarious situation. A further vote by MEPs in Strasbourg in July will decide whether or not her immunity is lifted.
British Conservative MEP and member of the legal affairs committee, Sajjad Karim, said after the votes today that Le Pen is hiding behind the EU:
“Marine Le Pen is an extremist right wing politician who has campaigned fervently against the EU, but who now wants the EU to protect her from her own country’s prosecuting system.”
Mr Karim, the Conservative legal affairs spokesperson who has been involved in Le Pen’s hearing, confirmed reports that there was almost total agreement to remove her protection.
“There is a red line between freedom of speech and inciting racial hatred. I, along with many other MEPs, today voted to drop Ms Le Pen’s immunity and I am confident that the majority of the European Parliament will follow our lead in July.”
“The legal affairs committee had a very thorough discussion on this issue including inviting Marine Le Pen to the hearing. The vote will now go before all MEPs in the Parliament and it will be telling to see which, if any, MEPs support her call.”
The furore began with remarks Ms Le Pen made to her supporters at a party rally in Lyon where she likened Islamic prayers to Nazi occupation.
Sajjad Karim, also vice-president of the European Parliament Anti-Racism and Diversity Intergroup, spoke out about Le Pen’s inflammatory remarks.
“Using Nazi occupation in France as a comparison to Muslims praying on the street is appalling, insulting and highly inflammatory on so many levels. Her remarks do the complete opposite of trying to forge a social fabric of peace, understanding and respect.”
The Front National party has been a source of controversy with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the party’s founder and father of Marine Le Pen, having several convictions of racism and anti-Semitism.
The current investigation dates back to Marine Le Pen’s remarks made on 10th December 2010 when she was a presidential candidate in France’s elections. She said:
“For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about (Muslim prayers in the streets),” she said. “There may not be any tanks or soldiers, but it is nevertheless an occupation.”
The vote is set to take place when the European Parliament sits in Strasbourg on Wednesday 3rd July.