Front national (FN) president and Member of the European Parliament Marine Le Pen has lost her parliamentary immunity, opening the way to hate speech prosecution in France.
Le Pen was stripped of her immunity by a large margin following a show-of-hands vote in the European Parliament on July 2. She was present for the vote along with her father, former presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The vote comes approximately one month after the EP’s Legal Affairs Committee recommended that Le Pen’s immunity be revoked.
With her immunity gone, Le Pen now seems almost certain to be headed for a serious legal battle in her native France. French prosecutors have long sought to bring Le Pen to court over remarks she made in 2010, in which she compared mass Islamic street prayers to the Nazi occupation of France.
Le Pen made her offending remarks at a 2010 rally while she was campaigning for the leadership of the FN.
“Fifteen years ago, we started seeing veils on our streets,” she told supporters. “After that came prayers … I’m sorry, but if some people are very fond of talking about World War II … then let’s talk about occupation because that’s what’s happening here…. There may not be tanks and troops, but it’s an occupation nonetheless.”
Her remarks drew swift denunciations from anti-racist watchdog groups. One, the Collectif contre l’Islamophobie en France, filed a legal complaint. The judge assigned to the case recommended that the EP lift Le Pen’s legal immunity.
Cecilia Wikström, the Swedish MEP who sponsored the vote on Le Pen’s immunity, welcomed the result, and went on to say, “now it’s up to the French judiciary to try her case.”
Le Pen, meanwhile, seems unfazed by the process. Before the vote, she said she expected to lose her immunity because she had upset the establishment, and was confident that she would win any court battles.
This is not the first time a member of the Le Pen family has been sanctioned by the EP for incendiary remarks.
In 1997, family patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen lost his parliamentary immunity after he called the Holocaust “a detail” worthy of “only two pages” in a hypothetical 1,000-page book on World War II. A German court would later convict him of Holocaust denial and fine him.