UKIP MEPs back far-right leader Le Pen

UKIP MEPs have voted against a move by the European Parliament to remove the immunity of French far-right leader and MEP Marine Le Pen after French prosecutors opened a case against her for comments she made about Muslims.

UKIP MEPs have voted against a move by the European Parliament to remove the immunity of French far-right leader and MEP Marine Le Pen after French prosecutors opened a case against her for comments she made about Muslims.

Ms Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN), is accused by French prosecutors of incitement to hatred and discrimination after she compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France.

At her party’s conference in 2010 she said:

“For those who like to talk about World War II, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory. There are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same and it weighs on people.” 

Under European Parliament rules, immunity covers MEPs for any opinions they express within the parliament. However the rules state that:

“immunity cannot be claimed when a member is found in the act of committing an offence and shall not prevent the European Parliament from exercising its right to waive the immunity of one of its members”.

The French chief prosecutor’s office in Lyon had requested that Ms Le Pen’s parliamentary immunity be removed so prosecutors could take action against her.

Yet despite Labour and Tory MEPs backing the move in a vote yesterday, UKIP MEPs voted against it.

Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim said it was “deeply revealing” that while “an overwhelming majority of MEPs voted for Le Pen to lose her immunity and face a criminal investigation into race hate charges, extremist MEPs and UKIP voted to protect Le Pen”.

Arlene McCarthy MEP (Labour Legal Affairs spokesperson) said she was “thankful that the vast majority of MEPs saw fit to allow the removal of Marine Le Pen’s immunity so that she can be prosecuted for her inflammatory and racist remarks”.

“Euro MPs are not above the law and UKIP should explain why the Party that claims to speak on behalf of people believes that Marine Le Pen should be treated differently just because she is an MEP,” she added.

The daughter of former NF leader Jea-Marie Le Pen, Ms Le Pen’s party won 17.9 per cent of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election last year.

A Ukip spokesman said the party’s MEPs voted to keep Le Pen’s immunity “because we believe that freedom of speech is sacrosant”.

“Immunity should not be lifted just because you don’t like the MEP’s politics,” a spokesperson said.

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