October 05, 2016 - 7:52 AM
NANTERRE, France - French far-right firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen asked a court Wednesday to force the party he founded to let him back in, after he was expelled for anti-Semitic comments that embarrassed his daughter Marine as she pursues the French presidency.
Le Pen's lawyer, Frederic Joachim, argued that his client's expulsion from the National Front last year violated party procedures. He has said it was a decision made by an "execution squad."
Le Pen attended the hearing in a court west of Paris, but did not speak during the two-hour proceedings. A decision is expected on Nov. 17.
"I expect victory," the 88-year-old Le Pen told reporters upon arriving at the trial, where he is hoping for a verdict that will allow him to rejoin the party and its leadership — and demanding 2 million euros ($2.2 million) for his suffering.
"That's a minimum he is owed for the immense loss" to his morale and reputation, Joachim told The Associated Press.
The party expelled Le Pen for a series of remarks considered a liability to the party's image, including referring to Nazi gas chambers as a "detail" of World War II history. Le Pen contends his comments fall within the domain of freedom of expression, though he has been convicted repeatedly of racism and anti-Semitism.
The remarks drove a deep and lasting divide in his family and party. Marine Le Pen has distanced herself from her father's extremist views since taking over the National Front in 2011. She is named in the lawsuit, but didn't appear at Wednesday's trial.
Her more mainstream politicking has turned her into one of France's most popular politicians, and she's campaigning for president in next year's elections on an anti-immigration, anti-European Union platform.
Jean-Marie Le Pen won three earlier court battles against his former party over his initial suspension and a proposed vote by party members on his status as honorary president-for-life. The party definitively expelled him in August 2015, the move he is now contesting in court.
Asked if he was saddened to be taking his daughter to court Wednesday, he said, "I'm too old to be sad." He said he could envision restoring ties with his daughter.
"Why not? Life always starts tomorrow," Le Pen said.
However, he said he hasn't decided whether he will support Marine Le Pen's presidential bid. Jean-Marie retains a core of dedicated supporters and has said his daughter won't win the presidency unless she unites the party.
Marine Le Pen has widened the party's electoral base to include former supporters of the traditional conservative and socialist parties frustrated with the status quo, economic stagnation and France's shrinking global clout.
Associated Press journalist Cara Rubinsky contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected from earlier versions to show that Le Pen is 88, not 87 years old.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016