Jean-Marie Le Pen, 96, is not “fit” to be judged: “There is a physical and especially psychological deterioration”

Jean-Marie Le Pen, 96, is not “fit” to be judged: “There is a physical and especially psychological deterioration”
Jean-Marie Le Pen, 96, is not “fit” to be judged: “There is a physical and especially psychological deterioration”

The poor health of Jean-Marie Le Pen, 96, is incompatible with his presence at the trial in the case of the European parliamentary assistants of the National Rally (RN), the Paris judicial court said on Wednesday.

It will be without Jean-Marie Le Pen. The trial scheduled to start on September 30 in the case of the European parliamentary assistants of the National Rally (RN) will take place without him due to a state of health that is “incompatible” with his appearance in court.

Experts who examined the former president of the National Front, 96, at his home on June 19 could only note “a profound deterioration in his physical and psychological capacities,” reported Bénédicte de Perthuis, president of the 11th correctional chamber of the Paris judicial court, on Wednesday.

During this “criminal pre-trial” hearing, all parties, including the civil party and the prosecution, agreed that the co-founder of the far-right party was not “fit” to attend the trial, where he was to be tried with 26 other people for embezzlement of public funds to the detriment of the European Parliament.

The decision to exempt Mr Le Pen will be formalised when the hearing opens on 30 September.

Mr Le Pen “has no awareness of the purpose, meaning and scope of this hearing”, the experts insisted, stressing that he was unable to “appear and prepare his defence”.

He also suffers from “heart failure” which prevents him from leaving his home, they added.

Unable to appear, Mr Le Pen cannot be tried or sentenced to any punishment.

The lawyer for the European Parliament, civil party, Me Patrick Maisonneuve, however recalled that the former patriarch of the extreme right had all his intellectual faculties during the investigation and that his statements before the investigating judges could be used.

Risk of ineligibility

The court also ruled that former MEP Jean-François Jalkh, 67, who was also summoned to appear in this case, was unable to attend the trial due to his “very poor” state of health following a stroke.

This trial will primarily target Marine Le Pen, who will ultimately be tried with 24 other people and the RN as a legal entity, for suspicions of embezzlement of European funds between 2004 and 2016.

The defendants are suspected of having set up during this period a system of remuneration by the European Union (EU) of assistants of MEPs who in reality worked for the party.

Marine Le Pen, who has always denied these allegations, is being targeted for misappropriation of public funds and complicity.

Other defendants include Perpignan mayor Louis Aliot, former Reconquête member Nicolas Bay, who has just been re-elected to the European Parliament, and RN spokesperson Julien Odoul.

In total, 11 people who were elected as MEPs on National Front lists, 12 others who were their parliamentary assistants and four party collaborators were implicated.

They face a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a fine of one million euros.

The court could also sentence them to a five-year ineligibility period that could hamper Marine Le Pen’s presidential ambitions in 2027.

“Diversion system”

The trial is scheduled to last until November 27, with three hearings per week.

The investigation began in March 2015, when the European Parliament announced that it had referred possible irregularities committed by the National Front concerning salaries paid to parliamentary assistants to the EU anti-fraud office.

The investigations were then entrusted at the end of 2016 to two Parisian financial investigating judges.

The magistrates suspect the RN of having “in a concerted and deliberate manner” set up a “system of misappropriation” of the envelopes (21,000 euros per month) allocated by the EU to each MP to pay parliamentary assistants.

The latter would have actually worked all or part of their time for the RN, thus allowing it substantial savings on salaries.

The European Parliament, a civil party, assessed its damages in 2018 at 6.8 million euros for the years 2009 to 2017.

Last autumn, the centrist leader of the MoDem, François Bayrou, was tried in a case involving alleged fictitious jobs in the European Parliament.

He was acquitted “on the benefit of the doubt” – the Paris prosecutor’s office appealed – but ten other executives and elected officials from his party were sentenced to suspended prison sentences, fines and ineligibility.

Jean-Marie Le Pen

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