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France

Marine Le Pen to face trial for comparing public Muslim prayers to Nazi occupation

media Marine Le Pen at the National Front (FN) summer school, Septembre 6 2015. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right Front National, has been ordered to stand trial in October on charges of inciting racial hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation.

The comments came during Le Pen's campaign to take over leadership of the party from her father in December 2010.

Addressing a crowd in the south-eastern city of Lyon, Le Pen compared the holding of Muslim prayers in the street to a form of occupation. She referred to the "10 to 15" places in France where Muslims worshipped in the streets outside mosques when they were full.

"It is an occupation of part of the territory, suburbs where religious law is applied," she said. "Sure, there are no armoured vehicles, no soldiers but it is an occupation nonetheless and it weighs on residents.

"I'm sorry but for those who like talking a lot about World War II, if it comes to talking about the occupation, we can talk about it, because that is the occupation of territory."

Le Pen was investigated for inciting racial hatred at the time but the probe was later closed with no result.

A judicial enquiry which was opened in January 2012 after a complaint made by an association.

Le Pen was then charged in July 2014 after her immunity as a member of the European parliament was lifted following a vote requested by French authorities.

Since becoming leader in 2011, Le Pen has tried to soften the party's image and has distanced herself from father Jean-Marie's controversial remarks. The party is currently leading opinion polls in several regions.

But, like many in her party, she remains staunchly opposed to Europe's borderless Schengen zone as well as actions seen as enticing migrants to France.

Speaking to Paris-based foreign journalists on Monday, Le Pen compared the flood of migrants on Europe's doorstep to the "barbarian invasions" of the fourth century.

"We should warm them up, feed them and then send them back where they came from," she said.

Le Pen said she will attend next month's trial.

If found guilty, she could face a fine and jail time.

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