A presidential candidate in France who is riding the wave of anti-globalist populism that helped fuel Brexit and Donald Trump’s victory is facing prosecution for tweeting graphic images of ISIS executions.
On Tuesday, the European Union took one step toward allowing the prosecution of Marine Le Pen as the legal affairs committee of the European Parliament voted 18-3 to lift her immunity as a member of parliament, Reuters reported.
Le Pen is under investigation in France for posting three images of ISIS executions on Twitter in 2015.
The images included the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
A Paris prosecutor is examining whether or not the photos violate a law against distribution of violent images.
Le Pen reacted to the EU decision Tuesday.
“This only shows French citizens what the EU is, what the European Parliament is and that it’s all part of the system that wants to stop the French people’s candidate that I am,” she said, according to Agence France-Presse
Le Pen, who is leading a tight, three-way race to succeed Francois Hollande, is president of the National Front Party, which opposes French membership in the EU and the mass immigration of people from mostly Islamic countries who largely are not assimilating into French society.
Le Pen tweeted the graphic photographs of ISIS killings in December 2015 in response to a journalist who compared her party to ISIS, which is also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh.
“Daesh is THIS!” she wrote, along with the photos.
Her tweet drew strong criticism from the victims’ families and French politicians across the political spectrum.
Le Pen’s immunity also was lifted in 2013, leading to prosecution of her in 2015 for “incitement to discrimination over people’s religious belief” because she compared Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. The charges eventually were dropped.
Major terrorist attacks over the past two years by members of the Muslim immigrant community in France, attributed to ISIS, have bolstered the National Front’s popularity.
Le Pen is regarded as more democratic and republican than her nationalist father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and has sought to soften her party’s image, expelling members accused of racism and anti-Semitism, including her father.
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Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader who was the face of the successful referendum last year in Britain to exit the EU, known as Brexit, said in an interview in December he believes that if Le Pen were to win, France would hold its own referendum on leaving the EU, a “Frexit.”
He summed up his opinion of Le Pen, describing her as “very socialist” on economic issues but a defender of French sovereignty.
“Oh yes, she is (controversial). I mean look, let me absolutely clear about this. I’ve never said a bad word about Marine Le-Pen, I’ve never said a good word about her party.
“That is my position on this. I think she has tried to make things better within the front national. She’s got rid of people who held genuinely extreme positions. I don’t agree with her economic analysis at all or her view on trade or many other things.
“It’s completely different but she does believe in the sovereignty of France.”
‘Incitement to discrimination’
Le Pen is not the only member of the European Parliament to be punished for her speech.
Last month, after the parliament refused immunity, UKIP’s Jane Collins was ordered by the high court in London to pay 335,000 pounds in damages and court costs for alleging three British members of Parliament had failed to speak out about child abuse carried out by British-Pakistani men in Rotherham, England.
Collins charged the MPs were guilty of grave misconduct because they kept silent due to political correctness and cowardice.
A report commissioned by the British government supported her claim. It found that “failures of political and police leadership contributed to the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children in Rotherham over a 16-year period.
‘Naming the horror of Islam’
The vote Tuesday to lift Le Pen’s immunity was in response to a request by the French judiciary. The full European Parliament must back the decision. A vote is expected this week, Reuters said.
Prosecutors are considering a charge of “publishing violent images,” which can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros, about $79,000.
Reacting to the vote, National Front Vice President Florian Philipott argued: “Showing and naming the horror of Islamism allow us to fight against it.”
Polls show Le Pen winning the first two rounds of the French presidential election but losing in the runoff.