Le Pen charged over IS photos

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

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

The judge's decision to step up the investigation comes a little over a week ahead of the National Front's annual congress, where Le Pen is expected to lay out her plans for rebuilding the party after it's loss to President Emmanuel Macron's La République En Marche! in last year's election.

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.

The other images showed a tank running over a man in an orange jumpsuit, while another jumpsuit-clad man was shown in a cage being burned alive.

Le Pen was a presidential candidate in France's election past year, but lost to Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen faces up to three years in prison and 75,000 euros ($90,000) in fines if the case goes to trial and she is convicted.

Le Pen has said the French government is attacking her for speaking the truth about the dangers of ISIS and other Islamic extremists.

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Foley's parents, John and Diane, released a statement in response to Le Pen using the image of their dead son: "Our family was informed this morning that Marine Le Pen, a French politician, tweeted a shamefully uncensored picture of our son".

Le Pen deleted the images, but said that the images were meant to condemn the actions of ISIS and told the AFP that, "In other countries this would have earned me a medal".

The Front National (FN) leader is not the only member of her party facing the same charges. She intends to propose a new name for the party at a National Front meeting later this month, among other reforms aimed at distancing the party from its founder, Marine's father Jean Marie Le Pen. Prosecutors were able to press preliminary charges after the National Assembly lifted her parliamentary immunity in November. She has denied any wrongdoing in both cases.

Party stalwarts have rallied around Le Pen on social media.

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