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French far-right presidential candidate's headquarters raided by police

24 Февраля 2017

French far right leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen speaks to journalists after her meeting with Lebanese foreign minister Gibran Bassil, in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, Feb. 20, 2017.

French judicial police are questioning the bodyguard and chief-of-staff of far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen in relation to an investigation into alleged misuse of European Union funds, her lawyer has said.

"I met the grand mufti of Al-Azhar", she said. Le Pen has proposed extending the 2004 law banning headscarves and other religious symbols in all public spaces.

The two aides to Le Pen were placed in custody for interrogation Wednesday after investigators raided her National Front party's headquarters earlier in the week as part of a probe into whether she improperly used European money to pay their salaries.

It was Ms Le Pen's last day in Lebanon, where she met a foreign head of state for the first time - President Michel Aoun.

Dr Helbert said she believes the headscarf incident was a strategic diversion away from corruption claims against Le Pen.

The parliament says the breach happened during the 2011-12 legislature, after Le Pen assummed her role as FN leader in January 2011. 'The highest Sunni authority in the world did not require wearing this, so I have no reason to, ' Ms Le Pen said today.

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In a statement issued by the Dar al-Fatwa press office, they called her action as "inappropriate behavior" since she "refused to put on the veil, as it is known (to be required) when visiting Mufti Derian". One protester raised a drawing of Le Pen between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump, with "Neo-fascists" emblazoned underneath.

Two top themes of Le Pen's platform are drastically reducing immigration, and the refugee population, and fighting Islamic extremism.

Why has Support for Le Pen Surged?

Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said Le Pen, now in a visit to Lebanon, has not yet commented on the police search, but in the past she has always denied misusing European funds.

Polls show Fillon, a former conservative prime minister, and Macron, an ex-investment banker and economy minister, battling neck-and-neck for second place in the April 23 first round of voting.

Bayrou's decision is the latest twist in a closely fought presidential election, fraught with setbacks for front-runners and surges in support for outsiders.

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