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Marine Le Pen has appeared in court in Lyon, to answer charges of inciting racial hatred, for comparing Muslims praying in the street to the Nazi occupation.

The French National Front (FN) leader made the comments at a rally in Lyon in 2010 when she was fighting for the leadership of the party.

Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigration and anti-EU message is attracting increasing support in France.

Her party is hoping to win two French regions in December local elections.

Outside court, the far-right leader insisted she had not committed any offence and questioned the timing of the trial.

“We’re a month away from a regional election and this affair dates back five years,” she told reporters.

According to an opinion poll at the weekend, her niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, could wrest control of the key southern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur (Paca) from the governing Socialists.Marine Le Pen in court 2015

Alarm at the rise of the National Front (FN) prompted President Francois Hollande to warn France not to take the risk of backing the far right.

“Don’t play with this way of voting just to send a message, just because of unhappiness and anger,” the president told French radio.

“For investors, for external trade, jobs and growth, there will be consequences.”

Marine Le Pen took over the FN leadership in 2011 and has since tried to steer the party away from its racist and anti-Semitic past.

It was during a campaign speech in December 2010 that she told FN supporters: “I’m sorry, but some people are very fond of talking about the Second World War 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 phenomenon of street prayers emerged when French Muslims were unable to find space in mosques, and after a political outcry the practice was banned in Paris in 2011.

Marine Le Pen was investigated for her public remarks and she was eventually stripped of her immunity from prosecution by the European Parliament in 2013.

Ahead of the trial, Marine Le Pen made clear that she would use the occasion to defend her right to freedom of expression.

She is accused of incitement to discrimination, violence or hatred towards a group of people because of their religious affiliation and if found guilty could face up to a year in jail and a fine of €45,000 ($51,000).

The French Council of the Muslim Faith said Marine Le Pen’s remarks had fed a climate of Islamophobia.


The second day of the G7 summit in Germany is being dominated by the climate change and extremism talks.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants the economic powers group to reach an agreement on limiting global temperature rises.

Angela Merkel also wants G7 members to contribute to a fund for poor countries suffering the worst effects of climate change.

There will also be talks on the threat from radical extremism with the leaders of Nigeria, Tunisia and Iraq.

G7 summit is being held at the picturesque Schloss Elmau hotel in Krun in the Bavarian Alps.

It is being attended by President Barack Obama, UK PM David Cameron, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe, French President Francois Hollande, Canadanian PM Stephen Harper and Italian PM Matteo Renzi.G7 Summit 2015 Germany

The first working session on June 8 will focus on climate and energy, with Chancellor Angela Merkel trying to get leaders to agree to keeping temperature rises within 2C of pre-industrial levels.

Angela Merkel is hoping to secure commitments from her G7 guests on tackling global warming to build momentum before a major UN climate summit in Paris in December.

Later, G7 leaders will be joined by Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi to discuss the threat posed by groups like Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram.

On June 7, David Cameron said the UK was sending an extra 125 military trainers to Iraq to help in the battle against IS, describing the militants as “the biggest threat” G7 leaders had to address.

ISIS continues to control large swathes of Iraq and Syria despite being the target of a US-led air campaign against them.

In Nigeria, a similar regional battle is being fought against Boko Haram militants who have carried out attacks since 2009 to try to create an Islamic state.

The 41st G7 summit is held in Schloss Elmau, Krün, Bavaria, Germany on June 7–8, 2015.