French presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen faces three years in jail as she appears in court today for tweeting images of ISIS atrocities
- Marine Le Pen tweeted images in 2015 of a US journalist decapitated by ISIS
- The posts, following a series of terrorist attacks in Paris, sparked public outrage
- The far-right leader, accused of spreading hate, is facing three years in prison
- The popular politician is going head-to-head with President Macron in 2022
French far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen is facing three years in prison for tweeting out ‘monstrous’ photographs of an American journalist decapitated by Islamic State.
The leader of the National Rally party appeared in the dock today in Paris after she was accused of spreading hate by publicising the images of James Foley, who was murdered by the terrorist group in 2014.
French far-right presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen is facing three years in prison for tweeting out ‘monstrous’ photographs of an American journalist decapitated by Islamic State (file)
The far-right leader caused outrage by publicising the images in 2015, soon after a series of devastating al-Qaeda and Islamic State attacks on Paris.
She tweeted the decapitation photo under the caption ‘This is Daesh’ – an Arabic acronym for ISIS – along with another of a man on fire in a cage, and an ISIS victim being crushed by a tank.
On Wednesday, prosecutors in Nanterre confirmed that the 52-year-old politician was on trial for ‘circulating violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm to human dignity and that can be viewed by a minor.’
The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of three years and a fine equivalent to £67,000.
Le Pen, who was runner up to Emmanuel Macron in France’s 2017 presidential elections, denies the allegations, and describes them as ‘an attack on freedom of expression.’
Among those who complained about the French leader’s tweets were Mr Foley’s bereaved parents, John and Diane.
They accused the politician of using the ‘shamefully uncensored’ photos for her own political ends.
They said in a joint statement: ‘We are deeply disturbed by the unsolicited use of Jim for Le Pen’s political gain and hope that the picture of our son, along with the two other graphic photographs, are taken down immediately.’
The trial comes as opinion polls suggest she is one of the most popular politicians in France and will go head-to-head with President Emmanuel Macron (pictured on February 8, 2021) in the 2022 poll to choose a new head of state
Le Pen had addressed the tweets to BFM TV journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin, whom she accused of likening her party to the jihadist group.
Manuel Valls, France’s Prime Minister at the time, described the photos as ‘monstrous’, adding that Le Pen had shown ‘political and moral failing’ and her ‘non-respect for victims.’
It was the then Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve who went to the police, saying the tweets should be investigated ‘as they do every time these kind of photos are published’.
He said the photos are ‘Daesh propaganda and are a disgrace, an abomination and an absolute insult to all victims of Daesh.’
At the time, Le Pen’s party was called the National Front (NF), and it has since changed its name to the National Rally.
Despite this, it has historic links with racists and anti-Semites, including Le Pen’s own father, the NF founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, a convicted Holocaust denier.
Le Pen regularly focuses her political campaigns on alleged links between uncontrolled immigration and terrorist groups such as ISIS.
Le Pen was in the dock of the Nanterre criminal court with Gilbert Collard, an MEP and political ally.
‘It’s a political trial,’ said Jean-Marc Descoubes, counsel for Gilbert Collard. ‘We must remember that at the time we were one year away from the presidential election, the context is extremely tense.’