Europe

Jean-Luc Mélenchon: French left-wing leader quizzed over cash

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is pictured surrounded by cameras in a press huddle on a street Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Mélenchon is at the centre of a fresh media storm

France's left-wing leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon was quizzed for more than five hours over fake jobs allegations.

His France Unbowed party is being investigated for possible misuse of European Parliament funds.

On Thursday, prosecutors opened a separate inquiry for intimidation over his reaction to police searches at his home and party headquarters this week.

A furious Mr Mélenchon, 67, was filmed on Tuesday saying "I am the Republic!" and shoving a police officer.

He was shown confronting the officers, who had been despatched to gather evidence at his party's headquarters on Tuesday.

"Get out of the way and open up this door," he shouted at the officer, before he and a group attempted to force their way into the premises past the guards.

Inside, he told the prosecutor: "I'm the leader of an opposition group. You should not be treating me in this way!"

Mr Mélenchon - who carried 20% of the first round vote in last year's presidential election - vented his anger on social media as the searches were happening, saying he was the victim of political persecution.

The new investigation alleged "threats and acts of intimidation against judicial authorities" and "violence against people carrying out public duties". His party has filed a counter-claim alleging police violence.

There has been widespread condemnation of his actions from both politicians and the press.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said he was shocked by Mr Mélenchon's reaction to police doing their job.

"In carrying out judicial procedures, the justice division is obviously independent and it is for us to protect that principle of independence," he said.

Prosecutors questioned the political leader on Thursday over the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay party employees in France. The funding of his 2017 presidential campaign is also being investigated.

Emerging from more than five hours of hearings at the anti-corruption bureau's Paris headquarters, Mr Mélenchon denounced what he called a "political manoeuvre" based only on "the accusations of two people".

"Mr Macron... your scheme has failed," he said, addressing the French president.

He said he had already answered all questions in writing to the European parliament, Le Parisien reported.

"I am not obstructing anything," he said. "I am asking for a judicial de-escalation."

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