Selfie with Le Pen lands Madonna ex-boyfriend in French court

Jean-Marie Le Pen
Jean-Marie Le Pen Reuters/Charles Platiau

The founder of France's Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen, is suing a dancer for publishing a selfie with the far-right veteran asleep in the seat in front of him on an airplane. The case pitches Le Pen's claim to the right to privacy against breakdancer Brahim Zaibat's right to mock him in a classic French freedom of expression dispute.


Zaibat, 29, known to the public for his TV appearances and a one-time relationship with pop star Madonna, took the photo of himself grinning behind a sleeping Le Pen, on a flight from Nice to Paris about two years ago.

It is less than flattering to the 87-year-old politician, who prides himself on his vigour as an orator and far-right agitator.

Zaibat decided to publish it on 12 December last year, between the two rounds of regional elections in which the Front National hoped to make major gains.

Although Le Pen has fallen out with his daughter Marine, who now leads the party, Zaibat accompanied it with the message, "Let's knock them out by voting tomorrow. Save our fraternal France."

The cheeky selfie garnered over 156,000 Facebook likes, 24,527 shares and 3,730 comments and was retweeted thousands of times.

Le Pen sued for infringement of his privacy and his right to control his own image and the case went to court this week.

The FN leader's lawyer, Frédéric Joachim, argued that sleep is "an attribute of private life par excellence" and the picture was "degrading".

Zaibat's lawyer, Vincent Toledano, invoked the right to humour and freedom of political expression, citing previous cases in which the European Court of Human Rights overturned French courts' convictions, including one involving then president Nicolas Sarkozy, on the grounds that satire "plays a very important role in public debate".

Zaibat clearly has no love for the Front National and may have influenced Madonna in that respect.

A video showed at a concert she gave in Tel Aviv featured Marine Le Pen with a Nazi swastika on her forehead, leading to threats of legal action from her party.

Judgement in the latest case will be passed on 10 February.

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