The leader of France's conservative National Front political party is due in a French court Tuesday to answer hate speech charges dating back to her 2010 run for leadership of the party. Marine Le Pen was accused in September of inciting racial hatred by comparing praying Muslims to the Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s, the BBC reported.
At a Lyon rally in 2010, Le Pen began speaking about reports of Muslims praying in the streets of three French cities because they couldn’t find mosques or adequate space in prayer rooms. If convicted, she could face up to a year in prison and a fine of 45,000 euros.
“I’m sorry, but for those who really like to talk about [World War II], if we’re talking about occupation, we can also talk about this while we’re at it, because this is an occupation of territory,” Le Pen told supporters in 2010, according to the Guardian. “It’s an occupation of swaths of territory, of areas in which religious laws apply…for sure, there are no tanks, no soldiers, but it’s an occupation all the same, and it weighs on people.”
Some racial epithets are criminalized in France, and laws limiting free speech are very strict when related to the Nazi occupation of France. Le Pen’s father and founder of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has also been charged with hate speech. He was convicted in 2012 of contesting crimes against humanity. The conviction stems from Jean-Marie Le Pen’s statement that the Nazi occupation of France wasn’t “particularly inhumane,” according to the Guardian.
— NEAVE BARKER (@NeaveBarker) October 20, 2015
When Le Pen took over leadership of the party from her father in 2011, she tried to move it away from its public image as racist and anti-Semitic. Some have said the party’s focus has turned to Muslims, but the party denies the criticism. The National Front targets Muslim extremists, not Muslims per se, the party has said, according to the Guardian.