A French court has filed charges against far-right leader Marine Le Pen for "inciting racial hatred" through comments she made about Muslims during her presidential campaign in 2010, it was announced Tuesday. An official inquiry into the statements was launched in 2012, and the National Front party leader is set to stand trial in October for comments she made comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation of France during the 1940s, Agence France-Presse reported.
Le Pen will be prosecuted under French racial speech laws that apply in particular to comments made about World War II or the Nazi occupation. French law limits free speech by criminalizing certain racial epithets, and those laws are particularly strict when it comes to comments related to the German occupation.
Le Pen's father, National Front founder and former leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, was also recently prosecuted under the same set of laws for Holocaust denial after he called Nazi gas chambers a minor "detail" of World War II.
Speaking about Muslims praying the street, Le Pen said in 2010, "I'm sorry, but for those who love to talk about [World War II], if it's about the occupation, we can talk about it because this is an example of territorial occupation." Le Pen's comments, made at a political rally ahead of the presidential elections held in 2012, were met with great applause from supporters.
"It's an occupation of certain swaths of territory, neighborhoods in which religious law applies, it's an occupation," she said, adding "Certainly, there are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation just the same that weighs on locals."
Le Pen and her anti-immigrant National Front party were gaining ground in the polls throughout the summer as French citizens became increasingly frustrated with the ruling Socialist Party's response to a growing refugee crisis.
The far-right leader has garnered widespread support in the northern Calais region in particular, where thousands of refugees caused chaos while trying to cross from France into England via the Eurotunnel that runs underneath the English Channel. Le Pen enjoyed support from nearly 40 percent of people surveyed in the region, according to a poll published Sunday by Odoxa.