National Front leader Le Pen acquitted of inciting hatred

Marine Le Pen in court in Lyon (20 October) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Marine Le Pen has previously called the charges "intimidation"

French National Front leader Marine le Pen has been acquitted of charges of inciting hatred on the December 2010 campaign trail in Lyon, France.

The charges relate to her comments comparing Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France in World War Two.

In October Ms Le Pen told a court in Lyon she did not commit any offence.

Prosecutors said she had exercised her right to free speech and was not referring to all Muslims.

She was charged in July 2014 after her immunity as a member of the European Parliament was lifted following a vote requested by French authorities.

In her 2010 speech to far-right National Front supporters, broadcast by French media, she said that France had initially seen "more and more veils", then "more and more burkhas" and "after that came prayers in the streets".

She said: "I'm sorry, but some people are very fond of talking about World War Two and about the occupation, so let's talk about occupation, because that is what is happening here...

"There are no tanks, no soldiers, but it is still an occupation, and it weighs on people."

The case was originally dropped last year by the Lyon court of appeal but was revived by anti-racism groups who made a civil complaint.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A ban on praying on the streets of Paris angered many of the city's Muslims

Praying in the streets was banned in Paris in 2011 in response to growing far-right protests.

In the same year France became the first EU state to ban public wearing of the face-covering Islamic veil (niqab).

'Main opposition force'

The ruling came after Ms Le Pen's anti-immigration National Front party gained a record number of votes in regional elections.

It led in six of the 13 regions after the first round of voting, though due to tactical voting it did not go on to win any regions in the second round.

The party received 6.8 million votes in the second round, amounting to a 27.36% share of the vote.

"Nothing can stop us now," Ms Le Pen told supporters after the result announcement.

"By tripling our number of councillors, we will be the main opposition force in most of the regions of France."

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