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Le Pen family feud back in French court

National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives for a trial at the courthouse in Nanterre, near Paris on October 5, 2016.
National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen arrives for a trial at the courthouse in Nanterre, near Paris on October 5, 2016. Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

French far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen asked a court Wednesday to restore his place in the National Front (FN), a year after he was booted out of the party in a feud with his daughter Marine.

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The 88-year-old was barred from the party he founded over a string of inflammatory comments that jarred with Marine Le Pen's attempts to sanitise the image of the anti-immigration, anti-European Union FN.

Tensions between the pair came to a head when he reiterated his view that the Nazi gas chambers were a mere "detail" of history and defended France's collaborationist wartime Vichy regime.

Marine Le Pen, who has her eye on the French presidency in next year's elections, disavowed her father, accusing him of "political suicide."

A court fined him 30,000 euros in April for Holocaust denial.

But Le Pen has refused to go quietly, chalking up three court victories against the FN over its treatment of him.

On Wednesday, he asked a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, where the FN has its headquarters, to reinstate him within the party, citing "irregularities" in the way he was excluded.

Leaning on a cane, Le Pen told reporters he was seeking "justice."

His lawyer described the elderly provocateur as a "tragic" figure who had been sacrificed by his daughter so that she could "turn a page in French history".

Le Pen is seeking 2 million euros in damages.

He also asked the court to confirm him as the FN's honorary president, a position he has held since resigning from the party leadership in 2011 to make way for his daughter.

Beyond the courtroom Jean-Marie Le Pen has continued to take potshots at the FN leader, whom polls show will make it to the run-off round of the top two presidential candidates in May.

In an interview with Le Parisien daily Tuesday he accused Marine Le Pen of "abandoning" the ground held by the FN to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy.

"She's wrong to try to appear more centrist than she is," he said, accusing her of "neglecting the public mood, which is very right-wing".

Sarkozy is seeking to return as president next year with a programme heavily focused on national identity and the place of Islam in public life.

Le Pen accused him of chasing after FN voters.

"He's becoming more like Jean-Marie!" he said.

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