(CNSNews.com) – French far-right leader Marine le Pen said Thursday that the bringing of criminal charges for tweeting graphic images of ISIS violence was clearly an attempt to silence her. She said the world was “upside down.”
If convicted of distributing violent images, the National Front leader, who lost an election run-off last year to President Emmanuel Macron, could be imprisoned for up to three years and fined some $90,000.
Prosecutors in a Paris suburb filed preliminary charges against her Thursday over the three controversial tweets, which featured graphic images of a caged man on fire, an ISIS prisoner being run over by a tank, and the body of James Foley, the American journalist who went missing in Syria in 2012 and was later beheaded by the Sunni terrorist group.
The tweets were posted in late 2015, shortly after ISIS’ deadly attacks in Paris, but until late last year Le Pen as a deputy in the National Assembly enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
At the request of the French justice minister, lawmakers voted in November to strip her of that immunity, laying the ground for this week’s indictment. (Earlier last year, the European Parliament had voted to lift her immunity – she was an MEP at the time of the incident – at the request of the French government.)
After last November’s vote Le Pen called it a violation of her freedom of expression. She tweeted that a jihadist returning from Syria takes fewer legal risks than does a lawmaker who denounces ISIS’ debased behavior.
Under French law, the posting of “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity,” and which could be seen by a minor, is a criminal offense.
Responding to Thursday’s development, she told the BFM television news network the indictment was “clearly aimed at silencing me” but added that she “will not be silenced.”
She said she would consider any conviction a “medal of patriotism.”
Le Pen told the conservative Le Figaro that the law she is being charged under was designed to protect children back in the era of Minitel, a French pre-world wide web technology that was known for its sex chat lines.
“It’s the world upside down,” she said.
At the time Le Pen posted the images, she was responding to a broadcast journalist, Jean-Jacques Bourdin, whom she accused of likening ISIS – also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh – to France’s far-right wing.
“THIS is Daesh,” she tweeted under the images.
Foley’s parents at the time condemned the posting of the “shamefully uncensored” picture of their son’s body.
Le Pen then took down that tweet, saying she had not been aware of the identity of the person in the image, which she said could be accessed on Google by anyone.
Le Pen’s political opponents slammed her over the tweets, with then-prime minister Manuel Valls accusing her of “inflaming” public sentiment and other ministers demanding legal action against her.
The incident occurred several weeks after the Paris terror attacks, when ISIS gunmen killed 130 people over three hours at a concert hall, sports stadium and restaurants in the French capital.