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France's Le Pen refused a police summons for questioning: her lawyer

Reuters

PARIS (Reuters) - French far-right-leader Marine Le Pen refused to attend a summons for questioning by police last Wednesday over allegations that she made illegal EU payments to her staff, her lawyer said on Friday.

Le Pen, who heads the anti-immigrant and anti-European Union National Front and is a leading candidate in presidential elections in April and May, would comply with any summons after elections this year, the lawyer, Rodolphe Bosselut, told Reuters.

Le Pen's chief of staff was put under formal investigation on Feb 22 after a day of questioning over the alleged misuse of EU funds to pay parliamentary assistants.

Her bodyguard was also questioned but was later released without being placed under investigation.

Le Pen, 48, who has denied any wrongdoing and says she is the victim of "political dirty tricks", is set to come first in the first round of an election for president on April 23 but lose in the May 7 runoff to either independent Emmanuel Macron or conservative Francois Fillon, according to opinion polls.

Bosselut said Le Pen had learned of the summons by police in Nanterre, west of Paris, on Feb 21 after returning from a trip to Lebanon.

"She believes that there is a risk that justice is being used as a tool in the election campaign," Bosselut said.

"She will attend any summons after the elections," he said. He did not say whether this meant after the presidential elections in May or parliamentary elections being held in June.

(Reporting by Chine Labbe; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing by Michel Rose)