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France's far-right political leader Marine Le Pen loses MEP immunity

Marine le Pen, the leader of the conservative Front National party, could face racism charges for comparing Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation.

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Leader of the French far-right Front National party Marine Le Pen speaks on the phone on July 2, 2013 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. (Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images)

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's conservative Front National party, lost her European Parliament immunity on Tuesday, in a vote that allows her to face in court charges of racism for a speech she made in 2010. 

French prosecutors initiated the case in 2011, after Le Pen compared Muslims praying in French streets to the Nazi occupation in a speech.

She is accused of "incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence against a group of persons on grounds of their religious affiliation," according to a report by the European Parliament.

Tuesday's vote overrides Article 26 of the French Constitution, which states "no member of Parliament shall be subject to legal proceedings, investigations, arrest, detention or judgment for opinions expressed or votes cast by him (or her) while carrying out his (or her) duties."

"I'm going to defend myself before the court and I'm absolutely convinced that the court will rule in my favor and protect my right to say to the French the truth about the situation, notably prayers in the streets but not only that," Le Pen said during an interview on BFM, a French television channel.

In 2011, France banned praying in Paris' streets, a law urged by far-right protests. That same year France also became the first European Union nation to ban women from wearing the traditional Islamic veil in public.

In the speech under investigation, Le Pen said France had "more and more veils," and "more and more burkas." Then she said: "For those who like to talk about world war two, to talk about occupation, we could talk about, for once, the occupation of our territory. There are no armored vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation all the same."

With Tuesday's ruling, it appears Le Pen is following in her father's footsteps. Jean-Marie Le Pen, who also led the Front National party, was convicted of racism and lost his European Parliament immunity in 1997. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130702/frances-far-right-political-leader-marine-le-pen-losses-mep-immun