French court reinstates Jean-Marie Le Pen as member of far-right party he founded



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PARIS — A French court has reinstated Jean-Marie Le Pen as a member of the far-right National Front party he founded decades ago, delivering a biting blow to his daughter and party president Marine Le Pen, who had suspended him after a series of controversial and anti-Semitic statements.

The family drama reflects the political evolution of the party, as Marine Le Pen eyes the French presidency and cultivates a less extreme image than her father.

She had tried to sideline her father, honorary party president for life, and held a special meeting May 4 in which senior party figures suspended his membership.

Jean-Marie Le Pen protested, and a court in the Paris suburb of Nanterre ruled in his favor Thursday. The judge said that the party breached its own statutes by suspending Le Pen without setting a date for a final decision on whether to expel him permanently.

Marine Le Pen said Thursday's ruling would "have no influence" on voting currently under way by party members about changes to National Front statues. The voting is taking place by mail and is scheduled to end by July 10.

Among the changes would be removing her father's honorary president status, a title created for him when Marine took over the party in 2011.

In a statement, the party said it was appealing Thursday's ruling, but said the decision would only produce one result: Now that he is reinstated in the party, Jean-Marie Le Pen can take part in the party vote about his future.

The suspension was a big defeat for a man who was once runner-up for the French presidency and whose outspoken anti-immigrant views helped push security and migration higher on the national agenda.

Jean-Marie Le Pen has been repeatedly convicted for racism and anti-Semitism. His daughter has tried to distance her party from that, instead railing against what she calls "Islamization" and tapping fears of extremist violence.

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