European Parliament lifts Jean-Marie Le Pen’s immunity over incitement against Jews


(JTA) – The European Parliament lifted the immunity of French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen over charges of inciting racial hatred against Jews.

The legal affairs committee of the European Parliament stressed that parliamentary immunity “does not allow for slandering, libeling, inciting hatred or pronouncing statements attacking a person’s honor” before voting on Tuesday in favor of taking away Le Pen’s immunity.

French prosecutors want to put the founder and former leader of the National Front party on trial for comments he made in 2014 about Patrick Bruel, saying the French Jewish singer should “go in the oven.” His comment, which he made during a filmed interview that he had posted on the National Front website, led to his exclusion from the party now run by his daughter, Marine Le Pen, who plans to run next year for French president.

Tuesday’s vote marks the fourth time that Jean-Marie Le Pen, 88, has had his immunity lifted. In 1998, Germany made the request after Le Pen famously called Nazi gas chambers “a detail of history.”

Separately, also on Tuesday, the European Parliament amended a draft report on Iran to include a rebuke of Tehran’s Holocaust denial and anti-Israel hate speech.

The draft document, which set principles for normalizing European Union relations with Iran following the agreement to lift sanctions in exchange for the scaling back of its nuclear program, originally had contained a single criticism of Iran regarding its use of the death penalty. It did not mention Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, support for Holocaust denial or threats to destroy Israel.

With 590 in favor, 67 against and 36 abstentions, lawmakers at a plenary in Strasbourg, France, overwhelmingly backed the amendment put forward by Dutch Liberal parliamentarian Marietje Schaake.

The Parliament “strongly condemns the Iranian regime’s repeated calls for the destruction of Israel and the regime’s policy of denying the Holocaust,” the final report read.

“We salute Parliament’s principled stand on this critical issue,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, director of the American Jewish Committee’s EU Office, the AJC Transatlantic Institute. “Unfortunately, another crucial amendment calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners and an end to systematic torture and other improvements to the text were rejected.”

If passed in its original form, the draft risked dealing “a serious blow to the standing of the European Parliament as a defender of human rights, justice and freedom,” Schwammenthal had warned in an earlier statement.

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