French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is no stranger to the bruising insults of political life. But even she seems taken aback by the latest affront: a court order requiring her to take a psychiatric evaluation.
Le Pen, who is facing charges for circulating “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity,” said Thursday she would defy the order, which she branded part of an effort by the government to discredit her movement.
"It's crazy," the leader of the populist, anti-immigration party National Rally wrote on Twitter, attaching a copy of the court order. "This regime is really starting to be frightening."
"I thought I had been through it all: well, no!” she wrote. “For having condemned Daesh [ISIS] horrors in tweets, the 'justice system' is putting me through psychiatric tests! Just how far will they go?”
The 50-year-old leader was charged with circulating violent messages that could be viewed by minors after she tweeted out pictures of ISIS propaganda killings in December 2015, including the murder of U.S. journalist James Foley and a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage. Le Pen had tweeted the images, provoking an uproar on social media, in the weeks following the 2015 Paris attacks, after a French journalist likened her anti-immigration party to the Sunni terror group.
If convicted, Le Pen — who lost to Emmanuel Macron in the second-round of last year’s presidential election — faces up to three years in prison and a fine of $87,000.
Le Pen tweeted out a copy of the court order Thursday, which called on her to undergo the tests as soon as possible to assess her mental state and determine whether she "is capable of understanding remarks and answering questions.” The prosecutor's office responsible for the case said such tests were commonplace in cases involving the dissemination of violent messages.
Le Pen later told reporters in the halls of the National Assembly in Paris that she would refuse to submit to the evaluation. “I’d like to see how the judge would try and force me do it.”
Despite Le Pen’s outrage, the court order may end up helping her push her party’s narrative that it is unfairly targeted by the French establishment. The situation has already drawn international reactions from some of Europe’s loudest far-right voices.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, head of the far-right Lega party, tweeted a picture of himself side by side with Le Pen. “There are no words. Solidarity with her and those French people who love liberty,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who is focusing on uniting Europe’s populist parties to build up their presence in the European Parliament, described the court order as typical of efforts by political elites to smear their opponents. "I've said for years that when the elites can't beat your ideas, they try to beat you down as a person -– to call into question your trustworthiness or intelligence or stability,” he said in a statement.
Even some of Le Pen’s political enemies tweeted that they disapproved of the order.
"It's not these kind of methods that will drive back the far right," tweeted Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of the leftist France Unbowed party.
Le Pen was charged in 2015 with “inciting discrimination” after she likened public Muslim public prayers to the Nazi occupation of France, but was acquitted. Since coming second in last year’s election, her party, previously known as the National Front, has changed its name as part of a bid to rebrand, and distance itself from the racist associations of its past.
Cover image: Head of the French far-right party Front national (FN) Marine Le Pen speaks as the party members backed the changing of the National Front name for Rassemblement National (Union, or Rally) during a congress of the party on June 1, 2018 in Bron near Lyon, southeastern France. (Photo by Nicolas Liponne/NurPhoto via Getty Images)