EU lawmakers consider lifting Marine Le Pen's immunity over tweets

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 28, 2017 8:40 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union lawmakers will decide on Tuesday whether to lift the EU parliamentary immunity of French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen for tweeting pictures of Islamic State violence, an EU official said.

Le Pen, a member of the European parliament, is under investigation in France for posting three graphic images of IS executions on Twitter in 2015, including the beheading of the United States journalist James Foley, the EU official told Reuters.

Responding to a request from the French judiciary, the EU lawmakers will consider whether her posts were appropriate to the role of a European deputy, the official said. A decision was expected later on Tuesday.

Le Pen's immunity shields her from prosecution; lifting it would permit legal action against her. The offence 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 ($79,650).

Le Pen could not immediately be reached for comment.

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.

The legislature's legal affairs committee will vote on a report on the lifting of Le Pen's immunity on Tuesday. The committee's decision will then have to be backed by the whole parliament in a second vote scheduled on Thursday.

EU lawmakers usually decide to lift the immunity of European deputies if requested.

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.

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(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; additional reporting by Chine Labbe; editing by Larry King)