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French far-right party in dive after election losses, spats

16 Juin 2017

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been stripped of her immunity from prosecution in the European Parliament as she faces a legal challenge back home just ahead of the second round of parliamentary election.

This latest suspension of her parliamentary immunity centers on a defamation case filed by Nice mayor, Christian Estrosi. Le Pen had accused him of cooperating with terrorist elements.

MEPs voted in favor of lifting the immunity she enjoys as a member of the European Union assembly, saying there was no reason to believe that the French legal case was motivated by the "intention of harming Marine Le Pen's parliamentary or political activity".

In March, Le Pen lost immunity in another case - this time over graphic images of executions by the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) group she showed via Twitter.

It is not linked to a separate demand by French prosecutors for MEPs to lift her immunity from prosecution over allegations that the FN used funds allotted for parliamentary assistants to pay party staff in France.

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According to the French law, lawmakers would enjoy immunity for opinions expressed or votes cast during official duties.

She did not attend the vote.

The elder Le Pen, who co-founded the National Front in 1972, is being investigated for saying in August 2009 that immigrants or people of immigrant origin were behind 90 percent of crimes. They said Le Pen had welcomed the continued action in the court over the defamation case as it would give her an opportunity to shed light on her claims that Estrosi was in league with terrorists.

Sources close to Le Pen in her National Front (FN) party said that the examination of the request to revoke her immunity was accelerated to damage the FN in the run-up to Sunday's second round of voting in the French parliamentary election.

Le Pen, who has denounced legal proceedings against her as politically-motivated, chose not to accept either of two invitations to appear before the Committee on Legal Affairs.

French far-right party in dive after election losses, spats