French far-right leader Marine Le pen, whose party is well known for anti-immigration and anti-Islam, is standing on trial on Tuesday over charges for anti-Muslim comments she make in 2010 during a rally of her supporters.
Le Pen is to be on trial as a result of a comment she made last year over Islam, saying "Muslims prayer on street is a form of occupation."
Marine Le Pen’s trial is taking place two months before the regional elections in December which may or may not affect her chance of winning the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region.
According to political experts, despite her potential jail term and a fine of 45,000 euros (51,000 dollars), she is still gaining more support and could emerge from the trial stronger among many National Front voters.
Le pen has also been striving to raise her popularity among those on the left party which opposes Europe’s economic policy.
"I'm sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War Two, if we're talking about occupation, we could talk about that (street prayers), because that is clearly an occupation of the territory," she had said.
"There are no tanks, no soldiers, but it is still an occupation, and it weighs on people."
These comments led to a judicial investigation in January 2012 following a complaint by an anti-racist association.
She was then charged in July 2014 after her immunity as a member of the European Parliament (MEP) was lifted in 2013.
Le Pen, who is expected to run for presidency in 2017, is known for trying to clear FN from its racist and anti-Semitic past. Recently, she even expelled her father Jean-Marie Le Pen from the party for this cause after he repeated his thought that the Holocaust was a “mere detail” in history.
France bans street prayers
Before street prayers were forbidden, Muslims had to pray in the streets of Paris when mosques were over-capacity. But, a ban was put into effect in 2011 due to increasing far-right protests.
In the same year, France also became the first EU country to nationally forbid the public wearing of burqas (full-face veil) and niqabs that only leave a woman’s eyes open. France houses the highest number of Muslim inhabitants out of all EU member states.
Today, Belgium and France are still the only two countries in the world that have banned full-face veils nationwide.