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France's Le Pen Acquitted Of Inciting Hatred In Muslim Comments

National Front party leader Marine Le Pen speaks during a news conference Monday in Lille, France. She has been acquitted of inciting hatred during a 2010 campaign.
Pascal Rossignol
Reuters /Landov
National Front party leader Marine Le Pen speaks during a news conference Monday in Lille, France. She has been acquitted of inciting hatred during a 2010 campaign.

French politician Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Front party, has been cleared of charges that she incited hatred when she compared Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation of her country during World War II.

If found guilty, Le Pen could have faced a penalty of a year in prison and a steep fine.

From France 24:

"The 47-year-old had been accused of 'inciting discrimination, violence or hatred toward a group of people based on their religious beliefs' over the comments made on the campaign trail in December 2010."

Le Pen's National Front, or FN, returned surprisingly strong results in the first round of France's recent elections — but the party failed to win any regions in the second round of voting. The election is seen as an important indicator as Le Pen prepares for an expected run for France's presidency in 2017.

Earlier this year, Le Pen forced her father, Jean Marie Le Pen, out of the party that he founded. But in recent months, it's been another relative — Marion Marechal-Le Pen, Marine's niece and Jean Marie's granddaughter — who has been gaining momentum in France's political arena.

As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley recently reported, "This svelte blonde lawyer and mother is the hallmark of the party's success in this round of elections."

Neither Marine nor Marion won seats in the final tally of the vote. But that didn't stop Sarah Palin from praising Marion, writing on Sunday, "I have a political crush, but one I couldn't vote for today – because she ran for office in France."

Saying that she has "admired the bold style of Marine Le Pen," Palin added, "But I'm especially impressed with the courage of her young niece who is a devout Catholic and unapologetically pro-life."

In an interview with NPR last month, Marine Le Pen discussed France's response to the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people, calling for a reestablishment of France's borders:

"France needs to do everything it ought to have done for years, especially since the attack on Charlie Hebdo. This year, we have experienced six attacks on French soil. We need to institute a major policy which would reestablish our own borders. This means we need to stop accepting this influx of immigrants who were 1 million this year and who will be 3 million more next year according to the European Commission.

"And since it's clear to us that the Islamic State is using these migrations to infiltrate terrorists, we must restore the institutions of the army, the police and the justice system as well as customs which were destroyed under Sarkozy and under Francois Hollande. And we must eradicate Islamic fundamentalism on our soil."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.