PARIS – French prosecutors filed preliminary charges Thursday against far-right leader Marine Le Pen for tweeting brutal images of Islamic State violence, in a new blow to a woman long seen as the face of Europe’s anti-immigrant populism.
The prosecutor’s office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre said the charges were issued Thursday for “distribution of violent images.” If the case eventually reaches trial and she’s convicted, Le Pen could face up to three years in prison and 75,000 euros ($90,000) in fines.
Le Pen’s December 2015 tweets showed executions by IS extremists, including the killing of American reporter James Foley. She posted them in the wake of the November 2015 IS attacks on Paris, as she accused the government of not doing enough to protect France.
Le Pen didn’t comment publicly on Thursday’s preliminary charges, made possible after the French parliament lifted her immunity from prosecution in the case late last year.
Lawyer Rodolphe Bosselut, representing Le Pen in the case, confirmed the charges but wouldn’t comment.
It’s one of multiple legal cases targeting Le Pen or the National Front.
In one high-profile investigation, she and the party were given preliminary charges last year over accusations that they used European Parliament aides for party activity while they were on EU-financed salaries. She denies wrongdoing.
The charges come as Le Pen’s party is in crisis after she lost her presidential bid last year. Le Pen plans to propose a new name for the National Front at a congress later this month, in an apparent effort to distance it from past problems and stigma. The party could also end the honorary presidency of Le Pen’s father and National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, as part of a protracted family feud.
Marine Le Pen’s French-first, Islam-skeptic nationalism resonated widely in the wake of Donald Trump’s election and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. But French voters overwhelmingly favored pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron in the May 2017 election, and Le Pen was a distant runner-up.