Marine Le Pen facing jail after posting images of terror atrocities

17 2016 President of the French far-right party Marine Le Pen poses in Nanterre outside Paris

After the investigation was announced on Thursday, Ms Le Pen defended her actions, saying she was being charged for condemning IS.

The investigation relates to three graphic images of Daesh executions that she posted on Twitter in December 2015, including the beheading of American journalist James Foley.

Ms Le Pen tweeted the decapitation photo under the caption "This is Daesh" along with another of a man on fire in a cage, and a victim being crushed by a tank.

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The anti-immigration leader lost to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron in the second round of the French presidential election run-off in May a year ago.

Le Pen didn't comment publicly on Thursday's preliminary charges, made possible after the French parliament lifted her immunity from prosecution in the case late previous year. If the case eventually reaches trial and she's convicted, Le Pen could face up to three years in prison and 75,000 euros ($90,000) in fines. She later deleted the image of Foley after receiving a request from his family.

She has been placed under formal investigation - a stage in the French legal process equivalent to being charged in Britain - for "distributing violent images", which is an offence in France.

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The Front National (FN) leader is not the only member of her party facing the same charges.

On Thursday, Le Pen defended her decision to tweet the images.

Other ongoing investigations, including one into allegations her party misused European Union funds to pay parliamentary assistants and another into the financing of past election campaigns, have not dented her appeal among the National Front faithful.

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Party stalwarts have rallied around Le Pen on social media. She has denied any wrongdoing in both cases. "...for those who really like to talk about the second world war, if we're talking about occupation, we can also talk about this while we're at it, because this is an occupation of territory".

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