Marine Le Pen loses immunity for Islamic State tweets
The European Parliament on Thursday lifted French far-right leader Marine Le Pen's immunity from prosecution after she tweeted out images of atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State group.
Lawmakers voted by a "big majority" to deprive Le Pen, who is a member of the parliament, of her immunity in the case, launched by French prosecutors in 2015, acting parliament speaker Dimitrios Papadimoulis said.
The prosecutor's office in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre launched an investigation in 2015 into "the dissemination of violent images" over the Front National (FN) leader's series of posts.
Le Pen, who is currently standing in the French presidential elections, posted the images of IS atrocities in 2015, including a beheading, in response to a journalist whom she accused of likening her party to IS.
In one image a bloodied body in an orange jumpsuit, thought to be US journalist James Foley, lies on the ground with a severed head on his back - another shows a man on fire in a cage, while a third shows a victim being driven over by a tank.
"THIS is Daesh!," said Le Pen, referring to IS in a post addressed to BFM TV journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin.
Le Pen has more than 830,000 Twitter followers.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the photos as "monstrous".
"Madame Le Pen: inflaming public debate, political and moral failing, non-respect for victims," he wrote on his Twitter account.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve alerted the police to look into the tweets "as they do every time these photos are published".
The photos are "Daesh propaganda and are a disgrace, an abomination and an absolute insult to all victims of ... Daesh," said Cazeneuve.
Le Pen's reaction dismissed as 'hysterical'
Le Pen was reacting to comments by Bourdin, whom she accused of drawing parallels between her party and the IS group in an "unacceptable bungle".
Bourdin, during his morning show known for combative one-on-one interviews, asked a question of Arab affairs expert Gilles Kepel in which he suggested there were "links" between FN and IS, with both seeking to push the French into cultural isolationism.
In later remarks, Bourdin dismissed Le Pen's reaction as "hysterical".
"At no point did I say the FN was like Daesh," he insisted.
FN politician Gilbert Collard also posted a picture on Twitter of an IS victim, albeit one that was far less graphic than those posted by Le Pen.
"We are only showing the hate-filled ignominy of those who assimilate us with killers," Collard, who was also placed under investigation, said by way of explanation.
Le Pen's FN scored a record number of votes in regional elections in 2015, boosted by concerns over the migrant crisis and terrorism, though the party failed to win control of any regions.
In the wake of the 13 November attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, Le Pen warned that if IS was not conquered "Islamist totalitarianism will take power in our country"
The controversial French leader recently refused to wear a headscarf after visiting senior religious figures in Lebanon.