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Front National suspends candidate for comparing justice minister to ape

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira
Justice Minister Christiane Taubira Reuters/Stephane Mahe

France's far-right Front National (FN) has sacked one of its candidates in next year's local council elections after she posted an image of Justice Minister Christiane Taubira as an ape on Facebook. Anne-Sophie Leclere told France 2 television that she would rather see Taubira in a tree than in government.

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Leclere, a 33-year-old shopkeeper and mother of three, admitted to France 2's Envoyé Spécial shown Thursday that she had posted a photomontage of the Guyanese-born minister's face alongside a clothed monkey on her Facebook page.

The image has since been removed.

While claiming to have black friends, she declared, "I prefer to see her in a tree behind the branches than in govermnent," adding that Taubira is "a savage" with "the smile of the devil".

The programme also showed her seeking other candidates for the local council in the street, signing up a passer-by who had done no more than accept a leaflet.

Leclere, who up until Friday headed the FN's list of candidates in Rethel in the eastern Ardennes region, only joined the far-right party in 2012 but three months later she was a parliamentary candidate in that year's general election.

On Friday the FN announced that she had been suspended as a candidate and would be summoned to a disciplinary hearing.

The suspension is part of FN leader Marine Le Pen's attempt to clean up the party's image, according to Bernadette Hétier of the anti-racist campaign Mrap.

Leclere's statement "was proof to the contrary of what Marine Le Pen has been stating for months on end, that is to say that her party is just a party like any other in the French political class", she commented.

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"I don’t remember anything that violent in many years," she told RFI. "Comparing somebody to an ape and essentially a minister of the republic and a minister who comes from Guyana and who is of black origin, as far as I can remember it’s the first time we have heard such a violent speech."

The Front National hopes to do well in next year's local council elections, although in the last, in 2008, it only won 70 seats.

"When you have selected 710 local leaders, there can be some casting errors," said FN vice-president Florian Philippot on Friday.

Since Marine Le Pen took over from her father, Jean-Marie, a number of members have been disciplined for overtly racist or fascistic statements.

In September a local council candidate in the North region was expelled for posting a burning Israeli flag on Facebook with the slogan "This is France!".

In 2011 two regional councillors were expelled after photos of them giving the Nazi salute were made public.

Leclere's attack on Taubira has been compared to the racist insults that Italy's first-ever African-born minister, Cecile Myenge, has been subjected to.

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