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Jean-Marie Le Pen in court bid to overturn party expulsion

Published 05/10/2016

Jean-Marie Le Pen, former head of the far-right party National Front (AP)
Jean-Marie Le Pen, former head of the far-right party National Front (AP)

French far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen has asked a court to force the party he founded to let him back in, after he was expelled for anti-Semitic comments which embarrassed his daughter Marine as she pursues the French presidency.

Mr Le Pen's lawyer, Frederic Joachim, argued that his client's expulsion from the National Front last year violated party procedures, and said it was a decision made by an "execution squad".

Mr Le Pen attended the hearing in a court west of Paris, but did not speak during the two-hour proceedings. A decision is expected on November 17.

"I expect victory," the 88-year-old told reporters upon arriving at court, where he is hoping for a verdict that will allow him to rejoin the party and its leadership - and demanding two million euro (£1.7 million) for his suffering.

Mr Joachim said this is "the minimum" Mr Le Pen is owed for the "immense loss" to his morale and reputation.

The party expelled Mr Le Pen for a series of remarks considered a liability to the party's image, including a reference to Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of Second World War history.

Mr Le Pen contends his comments fall within the domain of freedom of expression, though he has been convicted repeatedly of racism and anti-Semitism.

The remarks drove a deep and lasting divide in his family and party. Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from her father's extremist views since taking over the National Front in 2011. She is named in the lawsuit, but did not appear at court.

Her courting of the mainstream has turned her into one of France's most popular politicians, and she is campaigning for the presidency in next year's elections on an anti-immigration, anti-European Union platform.

Jean-Marie Le Pen won three earlier court battles against his former party over his initial suspension and a proposed vote by party members on his status as honorary president-for-life.

The party definitively expelled him in August 2015, the move he is now contesting in court.

Asked if he was saddened to be taking his daughter to court , he said: "I'm too old to be sad."

He said he could envision restoring ties with his daughter, adding: "Why not? Life always starts tomorrow."

However, he said he has not decided whether he will support Marine Le Pen's presidential bid. Jean-Marie retains a core of dedicated supporters and has said his daughter will not win the presidency unless she unites the party.

Marine Le Pen has widened the party's electoral base to include former supporters of the traditional conservative and socialist parties frustrated with the status quo, economic stagnation and France's shrinking global influence.


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