Members of the European parliament’s legal affairs committee voted “overwhelmingly” to lift the EU parliamentary immunity of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, after a request from the prosecutor of Nanterre in west Paris.
French prosecutors opened an investigation in December 2015 into the graphic series of tweets by the National Front (FN) leader, which included a photo of the decapitated body of US reporter James Foley.
Their decision must now be backed by the whole parliament in a second vote, possibly this week.
Responding to a request from the French judiciary, the EU lawmakers in the legal affairs committee voted to lift her immunity, EU officials said. The committee’s decision will have to be backed by the whole parliament in a second vote, possibly this week.
Le Pen’s immunity shields her from prosecution; lifting it would permit legal action against her. The offense being considered is “publishing violent images,” which under certain circumstances can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros.
Le Pen, locked in an increasingly tight three-way race to succeed Francois Hollande this spring, has already seen her earnings as MEP cut for a different case involving alleged misuse of EU funds.
She has denounced the legal proceedings against her as political interference in the campaign, where she is the lead candidate, and called for a moratorium on judicial investigations until the election period has passed. Polls say Le Pen should win the first of the two election rounds but lose in the runoff. They also show that her legal battles seem to have little effect on her supporters.
Le Pen’s immunity has been lifted before, in 2013. She was then prosecuted in 2015 with “incitement to discrimination over people’s religious beliefs”, for comparing Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during World War Two. Prosecutors eventually recommended the charges be dropped.