French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to face trial for inciting racial hatred

France's Front National (FN)'s president Marine le Pen delivers a speech during a campaign meeting in Amiens on Sunday.
France's Front National (FN)'s president Marine le Pen delivers a speech during a campaign meeting in Amiens on Sunday. PHOTO: AFP

LYON (AFP) - Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right National Front, has been ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation, legal sources said Tuesday.

Ms Le Pen was campaigning to take over leadership of the FN from her father in December 2010 when she made the comparison, complaining that there were "ten to fifteen" places in France where Muslims worshipped in the streets outside mosques when these were full.

"I am sorry but for those who like talking a lot about World War II, if it comes to talking about the Occupation, we can talk about it, because that (Muslims praying on the street) is the occupation of territory," she told a crowd in the eastern city of Lyon.

"It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied. Sure, there are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers, but it is an occupation nonetheless and it weighs on residents."

After the comments, which provoked outrage in France, Ms Le Pen was investigated for inciting racial hatred but the probe was later closed with no result.

But a complaint by an association led to a judicial enquiry which was opened in January 2012.

Ms Le Pen was charged in July 2014 after her immunity as a member of the European Parliament was lifted following a vote.

Ms Le Pen said she would attend the trial.

"Yes, of course. I wouldn't miss such an occasion," she said.