(From (France 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen removed a picture of an American journalist beheaded by the Islamic State (IS) group from her Twitter account Wednesday after the graphic image sparked widespread condemnation, including from the victim’s family.
The image of James Foley, who was abducted in Syria in 2012 and executed by his IS group captors in 2014, showed the freelance war correspondent’s bloodied body with his decapitated head on his torso.
It was posted by Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front (FN) party, along with two other graphic images of executions carried out by the IS group on Wednesday with captions reading: “This is Daesh” (an Arabic acronym for the IS group).
But by Thursday morning, the image of Foley had been removed, though the other two – one showing a man on fire in a cage and another a victim being driven over by a tank – remained.
Foley’s parents had on Wednesday expressed outrage over the publishing of the images, describing the act as “shameful”.
“We are deeply disturbed by the unsolicited use of Jim for Le Pen’s political gain and hope that the picture of our son, along with the two other graphic photographs, are taken down immediately,” they said.
“As we have said before, our focus is on Jim’s life and all the good that he did in the world,” his parents said.
“We choose to use our tragedy to improve the world around us, and Le Pen’s actions go against everything Jim and the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation stand for.”
The photos also drew sharp criticism from French politicians, with Prime Minister Manuel Valls describing them as “monstrous”.
“Madame Le Pen: inflaming public debate, political and moral failing, non-respect for victims,” he wrote on his Twitter account.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the police to look into the tweets, “as they do every time these photos are published”.
He said that the photos were “Daesh propaganda and a disgrace, an abomination and an absolute insult to all victims of … Daesh”.
Le Pen dismissed Valls and Cazeneuve’s criticism, accusing them of having “lost sight of reason”.
“What are they going to do? Take legal action against me for defaming Daesh?” she told France’s Europe 1 radio. “[Cazeneuve] can throw all the police in the world on my trail, I will never let National Front voters be insulted in such a manner.”
Le Pen tweeted the photos in response to comments by BFM journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin, who she accused of likening her party to the IS group in an interview with Arab world expert Gilles Kepel.
Bourdin, who is known for his combative one-on-one interviews, raised the issue by asking Kepel about his latest book, in which the author suggests there were “links” between FN and the jihadist organisation.
“Of course they’re not the same thing,” Kepel said. “But they are two phenomenon that… resemble each other, because in both cases, we find ourselves in a society where inclusion is increasingly weak.”
Le Pen’s FN scored a record number of votes in regional elections on Sunday, boosted by concerns over the migrant crisis and terrorism, though they failed to win control of any regions.
In the wake of the November 13 attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead, Le Pen warned that “Islamist totalitarianism will take power in our country” if the IS group was not defeated.
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