In a decision that will undoubtedly outrage conservatives who have sought to highlight the horrors of terrorist groups like ISIS, a French court has ruled that Marine Le Pen, the leader of the party formerly known as the National Front (now National Rally) and runner-up in last year's French presidential vote, must undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine whether "she is capable of understanding remarks and answering questions."
In other words, the court is treating Le Pen as if being conservative is a mental illness.
The ruling follows formal charges that were brought against Le Pen in March after she tweeted gruesome photos of the bodies of innocent people subjected to horrific deaths at the hands of ISIS. The decision horrified conservatives who accused the French government of attempting to criminalize conservative political speech, as it was only the latest example of a disturbing trend in the European Union, per the Local.
Le Pen tweeted her anger at the decision, saying the court's ruling felt like a "hallucination." The order was issued by a district court in Nanterre and was dated Sept. 11.
C'est proprement HALLUCINANT. Ce régime commence VRAIMENT à faire peur. MLP pic.twitter.com/WCX6WBCgi4— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) September 20, 2018
Je croyais avoir eu droit à tout : eh bien non ! Pour avoir dénoncé les horreurs de #Daech par tweets, la « justice » me soumet à une expertise psychiatrique ! Jusqu’où vont-ils aller ?! 🤯 MLP— Marine Le Pen (@MLP_officiel) September 20, 2018
The charges stem from a series of tweets Le Pen sent in the weeks after the Bataclan massacre, where she shared disturbing photos including images from the beheading of American journalist James Foley. Le Pen later took the photos of Foley down after being contacted by his family.
Other pictures showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a rank - another showed a man being burned alive in a cage.
"Daesh is this!" Le Pen wrote in a caption. The tweets were a response to a TV journalist drawing a comparison between ISIS and the French far-right
Le Pen is facing charges of circulating "violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity" that can be viewed by a minor.
The order requires tests to be conducted "as soon as possible" to establish whether Le Pen "is capable of understanding remarks and answering questions." Legal experts told French media that these types of tests are "standard" and "automatic" for those facing charges similar to Le Pen's.
"The argument that this is harassment by the judiciary does not hold water. She is a political personality but this is not a political decision," said Jacky Coulon, national secretary of the magistrates union.
In protest, Le Pen said she will not be making an appointment for the evaluation, virtually daring the court to imprison her for defying their order. Such a challenge could lay bare the EU's hypocrisy in punishing anti-establishment conservatives at a time when fear over the breakup of the euro is intensifying thanks to the recent populist political revolution in Italy.
The crackdown followed French President Emmanuel Macron's promise to crack down on "fake news" to "defend liberal democracy". Macron, who bested Le Pen in the vote, went on to criticize Russian media and particularly RT of being agents of propaganda.
Le Pen's crime is punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a 75,000 euro fine. Still, Le Pen's strong showing in the vote shows that a sizable portion of the French electorate knows these actions are unreasonable and anti-democratic, increasing the likelihood that the persecution of Le Pen will backfire on the establishment that would like nothing more than to repress her views.