The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has been stripped of her immunity from prosecution in the European Parliament as she faces a legal challenge back home just ahead of the second round of parliamentary election.
The EU parliament revoked Le Pen’s immunity in a vote on Thursday, allowing prosecutors in France to examine a lawsuit against her by center-right mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi. Le Pen had accused him of cooperating with terrorist elements.
The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs recommended earlier this week that Le Pen’s immunity should be lifted over allegations against Estrosi, saying those remarks were not made in the course of her duties as an MEP. The committee also ruled that the demand for stripping Le Pen of her immunity had not been made to damage her politically.
According to the French law, lawmakers would enjoy immunity for opinions expressed or votes cast during official duties. That immunity is also granted by the EU parliament when the politicians become MEPs, although that would account only on their own state’s territory.
Le Pen had risked losing her immunity in the EU parliament over alleged misuse of funds while she already lost immunity in March in a case over tweets of graphic images of executions by Daesh, a Takfiri terrorist group mainly operating in Iraq and Syria.
She did not attend the two hearings in the EU parliamentary committee on the defamation case and funds misuse.
Sources close to Le Pen in her National Front (FN) party said that the examination of the request to revoke her immunity was accelerated to damage the FN in the run-up to Sunday’s second round of voting in the French parliamentary election. They said Le Pen had welcomed the continued action in the court over the defamation case as it would give her an opportunity to shed light on her claims that Estrosi was in league with terrorists.
Le Pen, who made it to the second round of the presidential election in France last month but lost to Emmanuel Macron, has earlier condemned the legal proceedings against her as politically-motivated. Her FN party gained 14 percent of the votes in the first round of the general election in France.