The European Parliament has lifted the immunity of far-right leader Marine Le Pen in a defamation case, at the request of authorities in her native France.
The National Front leader, who lost last month’s French presidential election to Emmanuel Macron, is accused of defamation by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of the southern city of Nice.
She alleged in May 2015 that Mr Estrosi financed a leading conservative Islamic group in France by allowing them to pay very low rent on a mosque, and said he was therefore morally complicit with jihadists.
Le Pen already lost immunity in March in a case over tweets of graphic images of executions by Islamic State and risks losing it in a case involving alleged misuse of EU funds.
In their own state’s territory, MEPs enjoy immunity as accorded to members of their own parliament. The French constitution provides immunity in cases related to opinions expressed or votes cast by lawmakers during official duties.
Earlier this week, the European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs recommended that Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity should be waived as her alleged statements on Estrosi were not made in the course of her duties as an MEP. It also found that there were no grounds that the request to remove her immunity had been made to cause her political damage.
Fellow National Front EU lawmaker Gilles Lebreton accused the legislature of accelerating the vote to suspend Le Pen’s immunity to damage the party ahead of Sunday’s second round of voting in a French parliamentary election. Le Pen’s party received 14 percent of the vote in the first round.
Le Pen, Lebreton said, welcomed the opportunity that the defamation case would give her to continue her criticism of Estrosi.
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.