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Jean-Marie Le Pen takes Front National to court over "Stalinist expulsion"
The founder of France's Front National (FN) is take the far-right party to court to fight his suspension from membership. Jean-Marie Le Pen claims that the party's executive committee has "expelled" him on the orders of allies of his own daughter, Marine Le Pen, who dismissed his legal action as "political sabotage".
Jean-Marie Le Pen told France Info radio on Tuesday that he was fighting his "expulsion" from the party he cofounded in 1972 and the withdrawal of his title of honorary president.
The case will go to court on 12 June, the same day the FN's political bureau is to agree the agenda of a special conference to discuss what to do with its long-time leader, who has failed to fall into line with his daughter's efforts to clean up the party's image.
In fact, Le Pen senior was suspended - not expelled - from membership by the executive committee on 4 May, following his repetition of contentious remarks, including a description of the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II.
Le Pen and his lawyer, Frédéric Joachim, claim the executive has no right to take such a decision and so it is not valid.
"It's a Stalinist method, not very common on the right," Jean-Marie Le Pen commented, adding that he wants not only his membership but also his honorary presidency back.
On Wednesday he claimed there was a purge in the FN's ranks, following the firing of two of his allies, Bruno Gollnisch and Marie-Christine Arnautu, from two party committees, and declared that he was at war with vice-president Florian Philippot.
The "ambitious" Philippot has confined Marine Le Pen to public relations for the party, he told Europe 1 radio, and may hope to replace her as leader.
"This is a media operation," Marine Le Pen commented on Wednesday. "Jean-Marie Le Pen is carrying out a media and political sabotage operation."
Declaring that there was "nothing surprising" about the case, she added, "You'd have to be naive to believe that this is a legal battle."
She no longer had any personal contact with her father, she said.