The European Parliament stripped far-right French lawmaker and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of parliamentary immunity for posting graphic images of victims of the ISIL group.
The lifting of immunity allows a Paris court to prosecute her for posting three images of brutality by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS, on Twitter in 2015, including a photo of the decapitated corpse of US journalist James Foley.
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 $78,930.00.
Lawmakers voted by a “big majority” on Thursday to deprive Le Pen of her immunity in the case, acting parliament speaker Dimitrios Papadimoulis said.
Parliamentary immunity is intended to protect EU lawmakers against intimidation attempts.
EU officials said that the vote came after a request from the French judiciary.
Responding to the vote on Wednesday, Le Pen said: “This only shows French citizens what the EU is, what the European parliament is and that it’s all part of the system that wants to stop the French people’s candidate that I am”.
Florian Philippot, a vice president of Le Pen’s party the National Front (FN), defended the Eurosceptic candidate’s 2015 Twitter posts.
“Showing and naming the horror of Islamism allow us to fight against it,” Philippot told the Reuters news agency.
Le Pen has previously refused to attend a French police interview over the investigation, citing her status as an MEP.
But her head of cabinet has been placed under formal investigation for “the dissemination of violent images”.
The French leader, 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 leading candidate. She has called for a moratorium on judicial investigations until the election period is over.
Le Pen is expected to win the first of the two election rounds but likely to lose in a runoff,according to polls, which 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 prosecuted in 2015 for “incitement to discrimination over people’s religious beliefs”, for comparing Muslims praying in public to the Nazi occupation of France during World War II.
Prosecutors eventually recommended the charges be dropped.