French Le Pen to stand trial for anti-Muslim comments

National Front leader to be judged in October for inciting discrimination regarding religious beliefs

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

France's National Front political party leader Marine Le Pen making a speech in Marseille, France, September 6, 2015.

France’s far-right National Front (FN) leader, Marine Le Pen, will go on trial in October for saying Muslims praying in the streets is no different from the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.

She will be tried on October 20 in Lyon over charges of "incitement to discrimination over people's religious beliefs," the prosecutor's office said on Tuesday.

Lyon is where Le Pen had made the remarks in 2010 during a rally of her supporters.

"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 president 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.

Marine Le Pen’s trial will take 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.

On Tuesday, Le Pen defended herself by calling the charges “intimidation”.

"It is a scandal that a political leader can be sued for expressing her beliefs," she told Reuters.

"Those who denounce the illegal behaviour of fundamentalists are more likely to be sued than the fundamentalists who behave illegally" she added.

Muslims praying in the streets of Paris during Friday prayer in 2011.

Before it was 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.

TRTWorld and agencies