France's Fillon denounces probe, fights on for presidency

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A committee of the European Parliament has voted to strip French far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of her immunity from prosecution, citing tweets she shared that contained graphic images of violence by the Islamic State.

Pressure ratcheted up on Fillon after the former premier revealed on Wednesday that he would be charged over allegations he paid his wife Penelope and children almost 900,000 euros ($950,000) for allegedly bogus parliamentary jobs, over a period spanning more than a decade.

Le Pen is now under investigation, but CNN reports she probably won't be charged before the first round of the French election next month.

"The thing about the judicial affairs for Marine Le Pen and the National Front is that they are not about personal enrichment, while Francois Fillon's family is directly implicated", far-right expert Cecile Alduy from Stanford University told a conference this week.

Police officials say authorities searched the Paris home of French presidential candidate Francois Fillon in an investigation into parliamentary jobs for his family members.

A Figaro/LCI poll on Sunday put Mr Macron - who was unveiling his manifesto at the same time as it was revealed Ms Le Pen had lost her immunity - on 58 percent in the run-off, against 42 percent for Ms Le Pen.

The short-lived frontrunner for the Elysee Palace has seen his campaign crumble amid a scandal over substantial payments allegedly made to his Welsh wife Penelope and his children for parliamentary work they never carried out.

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Le Pen's chief of staff was detained by police on February 22 as part of a formal investigation that Catherine Grist, the chief of staff, and Le Pen's lead security detail, Theirty Legier, had received improper payment originating from European Union coffers.

In that second round, he is now projected to face Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader with an anti-immigration, anti-EU platform. Ari, this is like if a couple months before the election, the Republican Party would not have a viable candidate. "It's the presidential election", he said, flanked by senior party members, after a morning of speculation he was about to quit the race.

Le Pen told CNN she's not anxious about her immunity being lifted.

In an interview with Le Parisien newspaper published on Thursday, Macron said if elected, he would pass a law to "moralise" French politics and fight conflicts of interest.

Before the allegations surfaced, Fillon was the clear leader in opinion polls.

Current polls suggest Macron and Le Pen have the best chances of finishing on top in the first round vote, followed by Fillon, and that Macron would easily win the runoff.

This week, Mr Fillon announced that he will be summoned for questioning over the allegations known as "Penelopegate" in the next couple of weeks. She later denied having said so.

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