Le Pen acquitted of 'inciting hatred' after comparing Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation

French National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen. © Pascal Rossignol
The leader of France's right-wing National Front, Marine Le Pen, has been acquitted of charges of inciting hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation in WWII. The controversial comments were made during the leader's 2010 campaign.

During a speech to National Front supporters at the time, Le Pen said that France had seen “more and more veils,” and then “more and more burqas,” and “after that came prayers in the streets.”

She went on to say: “I'm sorry, but some people are very fond of talking about World War II and about the occupation, so let's talk about occupation, because that is what is happening here.”

“It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied. Sure, there are no armored vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless and it weighs on residents."

Following the comments, the 47-year-old was accused of "inciting discrimination, violence or hatred toward a group of people based on their religious beliefs.”

She was put under formal investigation in July 2014, after immunity granted to her as a member of European Parliament was removed following a 2013 request from French authorities.

However, a Lyon court cleared Le Pen of all charges Tuesday. The charges were previously dropped last year, but the case was revived by anti-racism groups who made a civil complaint.

Le Pen, who has repeatedly slammed the EU's handling of foreign and migrant policy, has a reputation for virulent anti-immigration rhetoric. Although her National Front party recently experienced an influx of support in Calais, a city overwhelmed with migrants hoping to cross the English Channel into the UK, the party failed to win a single region in the second round of regional elections.