A judge placed France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen under formal investigation Thursday on suspicion of disseminating violent images via tweets she posted of Islamic State executions, a move she indicated was politically motivated.
The investigation relates to three graphic images of Islamic State executions she posted on Twitter in December 2015, including the beheading of American journalist James Foley.
“If they are trying to silence me, they will not succeed,” Le Pen told news channel LCI. She had denounced an earlier stage of the investigation as “political interference”.
Under France’s legal system, being formally placed under investigation often - but not always - leads to a trial.
The judge’s decision to step up the investigation comes a little over a week ahead of the National Front’s annual congress, where Le Pen is expected to lay out her plans for rebuilding the party after it's loss to President Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche! in last year’s election.
The investigation is unlikely to affect her popularity with party loyalists.
Other ongoing investigations, including one into allegations her party misused European Union funds to pay parliamentary assistants and another into the financing of past election campaigns, have not dented her appeal among the National Front faithful. She has denied any wrongdoing in both cases.
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Party stalwarts have rallied around Le Pen on social media. Bryan Masson, a National Front official from southern Alpes-Maritimes region, tweeted, “@MLP_officiel placed under formal investigation for spreading photos of Islamic State executions. No, it’s no good telling the truth.”
If the investigation proceeds to a trial, Le Pen could face a maximum sentence of several years in jail and a 75,000 euro fine if convicted.