Most of the members of the European Parliament voted to waive immunity from prosecution for far-right French MEP Marine Le Pen, paving the way for a judicial prosecution under French law for “inciting racial hatred” for remarks she made in a 2010 speech, where she compared Islamic immigration in France to the Nazi occupation. She will now have to defend her remarks in court and if found guilty of inciting racial hatred, Le Pen would face a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a €45,000 fine.
In October last year Marine Le Pen's lawyers invoked her parliamentary immunity as a reason for her not to appear before a judge. The judge then requested her immunity be overturned.
The European Union rules offer EU lawmakers immunity when carrying out their duties, but this can be revoked at the request of a court when a member of parliament is considered to be acting at a purely national or regional event.
The potential charges against Marine Le Pen come as the National Front, which runs on an anti-immigration, anti-European Union, populist platform, polls closely with France's two leading parties and declining popularity for President François Hollande and his government.
Marine Le Pen took 17.9% of the vote in the first round of the French presidential election last year.
By some estimates as many as six million French people, or just under 10% of the population, are Muslims, most of them from France's former North African colonies.
The day before the vote, Le Pen told LCI TV that she had fully expected Tuesday’s result.
Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie, who founded and led the National Front Party in France, until succeeded by Marine Le Pen in 2010, was also stripped of his immunity as an MEP, and was subsequently prosecuted for commenting that the Holocaust was “a mere detail” of the Second World War.