French far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Thursday removed a photograph of the decapitated body of US journalist James Foley from her Twitter account after his parents accused her of using it for political gain.
Le Pen tweeted the images Wednesday in response to a journalist who compared her National Front (FN) party to the Islamic State jihadist group which killed Foley.
Captioned “This is Daesh” (an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group), the photographs showed Foley’s bloodied body with his decapitated head on his torso.
Speaking on Thursday, Le Pen said: “I did not know it was a photograph of James Foley. It can be accessed by anyone on Google.
“I learned this morning that his family has asked for it to be removed and of course I took it down immediately.”
Foley’s parents John and Diane said Le Pen had used the uncensored photograph of their son “shamefully” and they were “deeply disturbed”.
The freelance journalist was captured in Syria in 2012 and beheaded in August 2014.
Le Pen, who has over 830,000 Twitter followers, addressed the tweets to BFM TV journalist Jean-Jacques Bourdin, whom she accused of likening her party to the jihadist group.
She also tweeted photographs of a man on fire in a cage and a victim of IS being driven over by a tank
– ‘Monstrous’ –
Prime Minister Manuel Valls described the tweeting of the images as “monstrous” and accused Le Pen of “inflaming public debate”.
The prosecutor’s office in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre on Wednesday said it had launched an investigation into “the dissemination of violent images” in connection with her tweets.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for legal action, saying the tweets were “Daesh propaganda and are a disgrace, an abomination and an absolute insult to all victims of… Daesh”.
The anti-immigration FN received 6.8 million votes in regional elections on Sunday, but failed to win a single region after the mainstream parties worked together to block it.
Le Pen, the daughter of the party’s co-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, is aiming to run in France’s 2017 presidential election.
She has worked to rid her party of its more extreme elements, but her father has undermined her by making a string of controversial comments.
On Monday, in the wake of the elections, he said he feared France would end up with a “President Mustapha” one day.
IS claimed responsibility for the coordinated series of shootings and suicide bombings in which 130 people were killed in Paris on November 13.
France responded by increasing its air strikes on IS targets in Syria and moving its aircraft carrier to the region.