Due to his exclusion from the National Front party after a series of rows with his daughter Marine, Jean-Marie Le Pen sued the party he founded in a court in Nanterre, west of Paris, on Friday.
"I think he'll go right to the end. He is confident, he's calm, he's combative like he always is," said the 86-year-old's lawyer Frederic Joachim as he and his client forced their way through a media scrum to the court. The far-right party founder himself made no comment.
Splitting the party over anti-Semitic remarks
Le Pen is in an intense feud with his daughter Marine, who now leads the party. Marine, eying France's presidential elections in 2017, has sought to distance herself from her father's most extreme views - not least apparent anti-Semitism. However, Le Pen and the FN continue to campaign on an overtly anti-immigrant, Islamophobic and euroskeptic platform.
She suspended her father after he repeated inflammatory remarks he had made in the past in an interview with a far-right French weekly Rivarol, referring to Nazi gas chambers as a "detail of history."
Her father said the party's decision in April to suspend him because of anti-Semitic remarks violated procedures because of his special role as honorary president of the National Front.
Le Pen afraid 'the FN might outlive him'
The founder of the party has "no FN credit card any more, he can't get into the building, they have reassigned his office, he can't participate in meetings," complained lawyer Joachim ahead of the trial.
Daughter Marine however said she had "nothing to fear" from the court case, saying it would show that the procedure used to eject Jean-Marie "is perfectly within regulations."
"Perhaps ... he considers that the National Front is his property and doesn't want the National Front to outlive him," she said of her father in a radio interview on Friday.
The FN is planning to let members vote in the coming weeks on whether to abolish Le Pen's honorary title as president-for-life.
ra/msh (AP, AFP)