The fourth round of a bitter trial between Jean-Marie Le Pen and the far-right FN party he founded has begun in Paris. Le Pen was expelled from the party by his daughter for anti-Semitic comments.
The bitter legal battle between France's embattled far-right figurehead Jean-Marie Le Pen and the National Front (FN) party entered its fourth round on Wednesday, as the elderly firebrand seeks to overturn his expulsion from the party he founded.
Le Pen was expelled from the FN last year for making anti-Semitic comments in an interview with a far-right magazine. His daughter and the current party leader, Marine Le Pen, is pursuing the presidency in next year's national elections on and claims to be trying to distance herself and the FN from her father's most extreme views.
The 88-year-old told a court in Nanterre, west Paris, that his expulsion from the FN was against party procedures and was "marred by irregularities, both in style and substance."
The decision was made by an "execution squad," he said.
Jean-Marie Le Pen is hoping to rejoin the party and its leadership, and is demanding 2 million euros ($2.2 million) in compensation. "That's a minimum he is owed for the immense loss" to his morale and reputation, his lawyer, Frederic Joachim, said.
This is the fourth round of a hostile legal dispute. Jean-Marie Le Pen had won three earlier court hearings against the process in which he was dumped by his former party. However, after proposing a party vote on his status as an honorary president-for-life, members instead voted to definitively expel him. As part of the latest round, Le Pen wants the court to confirm his reintroduction and position as the FN's honorary president.
Asked if he was saddened to be taking his daughter to court, Le Pen said, "I'm too old to be sad" but said he could imagine restoring ties with her. "Life always starts tomorrow," he said.
The FN's founder was expelled for inflammatory remarks the party considered a liability to its image. He had already been convicted for repeated offences of racism and anti-Semitism. However, the final straw came when Le Pen described the Nazi gas chambers as a mere "detail" of history.
The comments forced his expulsion and drove a deep divide in the Le Pen family. Marine Le Pen is named in the lawsuit, but did not appear at Wednesday's trial.
As part of her pursuit of the presidency, Le Pen has sought to somewhat soften the party's image - albeit still campaigning almost exclusively on a populist, anti-immigration, anti-EU platform.
Polls currently suggest that she would make the runoff vote in next year's presidential elections in France, at the expense of center-left Socialists currently in power with incumbent President Francois Hollande.
Her father argues that she will not win unless she stops "appearing more centrist than she is" and regains the far-right ground, which, he claims strongly reflects the public mood.
dm/msh (AP, AFP)