PARIS - Losing her immunity as a European parliament member, French far right leader, Marine Le Pen, could face criminal charges for inciting racism, after comparing Muslim prayers to Nazi occupation in a speech given in 2010.
A secret vote to remove Le Pen's immunity was "overwhelming", BBC chief political correspondent Gary O'Donoghue reported on Saturday, June 1.
Le Pen, leader of the National Front, compared Muslim prayers on the streets to Nazi occupation in a speech given during a rally in 2010.
"For those who want to talk a lot about World War Two, if it's about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory," she said at a gathering in Lyon.
In 2011, The French authorities opened a case against Le Pen, accusing her of inciting racism.
Yet, as a European Parliament member (MEP), she enjoyed immunity from prosecution.
In December 2012, French authorities asked the European Parliament to lift Le Pen's immunity as a European Parliament member (MEP) so she could be prosecuted.
The immunity protection was removed by a European parliamentary committee in a secret vote this week.
The decision would require ratification by the full parliament, a move expected to be a formality.
Le Pen took over the National Front from her father, party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism.
Focusing on inciting fear on the role of Islam in France, home to up to six million Muslims, Le Pen shocked the French elite by winning almost 18 percent in the first round of this year's presidential vote, her party's highest ever score.
Muslims and their customs and traditions have been under the spotlight in recent years in France.
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy had adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
Under Sarkozy, the French government had held a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.
Praying in the streets was banned in Paris in 2011 in response to growing far right protests.
Outlawing Muslim street prayers, French Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.