02 Mar 2017

Le Pen loses immunity, faces possible charges

The European Parliament (EP) has lifted French far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s immunity from prosecution it was announced this afternoon (2nd March) by Dimitris Papadimoulis, a member and spokesman of EP.

As the spokesman said to journalists, the EP vote was carried by a big majority confirming a preliminary decision of the legal affairs committee. Le Pen reacted to the EP’s action by saying that “these efforts are a part of the system that wants to deprive the French people of their favourite presidential candidate”.

Marine Le Pen had her immunity from prosecution lifted because, back in 2015, she posted 3 graphic images on Twitter that were depicting raw Islamic State violence. One of the pictures was showing the beheading of United States journalist James Foley that was executed by the jihadists after he was abducted and imprisoned for months. At that time. Le Pen had said that she tweeted those images to answer to a journalist that was comparing the actions of Front National (FN), Le Pen’s political party, with brutal actions made by the fighters of the infamous Islamic State. Foley’s parents had accused Le Pen of using a “shamefully uncensored” image for her own political gain.

Marine Le Pen, who replaced her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in the leadership of FN, is in a constant fight with the EP. She is already under investigation for misusing EP funds that were allocated to her party. The accusation is that Le Pen used money that were supposed to be given to assistants of MEP for legal work to pay members of her party staff. The EP demands around 300.000 euros to be paid back but Le Pen denied the allegations and refuses to do it. In this case again Le Pen, who is known for her fiery reactions, blamed the cut of her salary from EP and attacked by saying “it’s a decision taken by political opponents without proof”.

Today’s lifting of immunity isn’t going to apply to the separate investigation about the misused EP funds. It is expected to create problems for the FN’s efforts to pick up centralist voters. Advisors that are in charge of FN’s election campaign believe that prosecutions can be used to their advantage to gather voters of the right that don’t like European institutions.

Opinion polls suggest that FN will be the winner of the first round of French Presidential elections in April. If nothing changes, according to polls, Emmanuel Macron, a social liberal politician, will beat Le Pen in the second round in May. It is the first time in French election history that 2 of the prominent candidates for Presidency, Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen, are under investigation, facing the prospect of criminal prosecution.