October 17, 2018 / 12:23 PM / 8 months ago

French far-left leader, 67, investigated for intimidation

PARIS (Reuters) - French far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, already the target of an anti-corruption inquiry, came under further scrutiny on Wednesday when prosecutors opened a separate investigation into his alleged intimidation of investigators.

FILE PHOTO: Jean-Luc Melenchon, leader of far-left opposition France Insoumise (France Unbowed) political party, speaks during a questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, October 16, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

Melenchon, a well-known firebrand and former presidential candidate, was caught on camera on Monday yelling at and jostling an anti-corruption officer who was part of a team carrying out a raid at Melenchon’s party offices.

The footage, widely shared on social media, showed the 67-year-old prodding his finger in the officer’s face and screaming: “Get out of my way and let me open the door. I am the republic, it’s me who’s the member of parliament.”

The Paris prosecutor’s office said Melenchon was being investigated for intimidation of a member of the judiciary and violence toward public servants.

The politician and a group of backers from his France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party eventually pushed their way into the room, where there was more pushing and shoving and a scuffle involving a policeman and an unidentified person.

The swoop followed a similar raid at Melenchon’s home in Paris. The politician broadcast the raid by phone onto social media, describing it as “an act of political aggression”.

In the broadcast, he criticized Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, saying: “Madame Belloubet, are you proud of yourself for what you doing here? Have you forgotten everything, who you are, who I am? Nobody touches me. I am a member of parliament. My person is sacrosanct.”

The new inquiry comes on top of two funding investigations, one looking into the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay his party employees in France, and the other examining funding of his presidential campaign last year.

Interviewed on BFM TV on Wednesday, before news of the latest probe, Melenchon denounced the anti-corruption raids, saying: “We’re being treated like a bunch of gangsters.”

Police representatives criticized his behavior, as did President Emmanuel Macron’s government.

“He made a mockery of magistrates and the judicial procedure,” said government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux.

“That’s strange to say the least, coming from someone who wanted to become president and, as such, guardian of an independent judiciary.”

Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Yves Clarisse; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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