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Jean-Marie Le Pen tells Front National leaders they have no right to expel him

Jean-Marie Le Pen (R) and his wife Jany (L) arrive with his lawyer Frederic Joachim arrive at the special Front National executive committee meeting Reuters/Christian Hartmann

Veteran French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen faced expulsion or suspension from the party he helped found at a special disciplinary meeting of the leadership of the Front National (FN) on Thursday afternoon. He challenged the legitimacy of the meeting, a sign that he would fight an unfavourable decision in the party and the law courts.

Le Pen senior arrived in combative mood, declaring that "only the footsoldiers" were present because his daughter and current party chief Marine and vice-president Florian Philippot had chosen not to attend.

They stayed away for fear of being accused of acting as judge and jury since some of the complaints against Jean-Marie are about his verbal attacks on them.

The "chiefs have taken cover" was his comment and he went on to tell the executive committee that it had no right to judge him.

As honorary president he enjoys "immunity", he claimed, and went on to demand a national conference or, at least, an emergency central committee meeting.

Among the 15 complaints against Jean-Marie Le Pen were his declaration that he is ashamed that the president of the Front National bears his name and his insinuation that Philippot has placed representatives of a gay mafia in key party posts.

Others included his repeated description of the Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II, his expression of sympathy for supporters of wartime collaborator Marshal Philippe Pétain, a call for France to be friends with Russia to save the "white world" and his barging uninvited onto the platform at the FN's annual 1 May rally when Marine was due to speak.

The remarks have disrupted Marine Le Pen's attempts to clean up the party's image.

The 87-year-old former leader had unsuccessfully tried to have the executive committee meeting held in public and clearly intended to fight any measures taken against him within the party and in the law courts.

He was accompanied by an ally, Euro-MP Bruno Gollnisch, his wife Jany and his lawyer, Frédéric Joachim.