Le Pen stripped of immunity, accuses French lawmakers of persecuting opponents
“Better to be a jihadist returning [to France] from Syria than an MP who denounces the abasement of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL terrorist group]: one takes fewer judicial risks,” the President of the National Front said on Twitter.
On Wednesday a multi-party committee of France's National Assembly stripped the 49-year-old politician of her immunity from prosecution over the series of photo tweets Le Pen posted in December of 2015. The decision followed a request by France’s Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet.
“Daesh is THIS!” Le Pen wrote on December 16, 2015, the text accompanied by images showing a tank running over a man in an orange jumpsuit; a man in a cage being burned alive; and a decapitated body of IS victim James Foley. Le Pen later deleted the picture of the American journalist who was brutally executed by the terrorists in August 2014 following an outcry from Foley’s family.
At the time of the initial controversy, Le Pen explained that the picture tweets were posted as a sign of protest against the “vile parallel” made by BFM-TV journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin who compared the National Front to ISIS.
Despite Le Pen’s defense, the prosecutor’s office of Nanterre launched an investigation into the “dissemination of violent images,” but could not press charges while Le Pen enjoyed judicial immunity. On Wednesday, the Parliament stripped Le Pen of her privileges, citing a “serious, loyal and sincere demand for justice.” It further authorized the judge to “issue a warrant against Ms. Le Pen.”
In France, if a post that could be seen by a minor shows “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity,” the person responsible for its circulation faces up to three years in prison and a fine of €75,000.
Denouncing Wednesday’s decision by French lawmakers, Le Pen said the Assembly is trying “to persecute a political opponent and to try to muzzle the person who embodies the opposition and the alternative to the ruling power.”
In her statement, Le Pen maintained that she posted the photos on Twitter to highlight the “abuses of the terrorist organization” and to expose “the horrible reality of these crimes.”
This is the second time Le Pen is being stripped of her immunity. In March, the European Parliament briefly revoked her immunity as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). EU lawmakers, however, restored her privileges once she was elected to the National Assembly in June.