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PARIS (Reuters) - Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front party said on Wednesday that a jail sentence handed down to an ex-member for inciting racial hatred was "grotesque" and that it would appeal against its own fine in the same case.
A court in Cayenne, capital of the French overseas department of French Guiana, ordered Anne-Sophie Leclere this week to serve nine months in jail and pay a 50,000-euro ($67,800) fine for posting a photo montage of black justice minister Christiane Taubira next to a baby chimpanzee.
Leclere posted the image on her Facebook page last year while running in a local election in northeastern France on the ticket of the anti-immigration, anti-EU National Front (FN).
The party, which has struggled to rid itself of a reputation for racism, expelled Leclere shortly after the montage was revealed on a TV show last October, but was nevertheless fined 30,000 euros by the court in Guiana.
National Front Vice President Florian Philippot called the ruling "grotesque and disproportionate", and politically motivated.
The case had been launched in response to a complaint filed in Guiana by a member of the Walwari political party, co-founded by Taubira.
National Front lawyer Wallerand de Saint Just said the FN would appeal against its fine. French media reported that Leclere would appeal against her sentence.
Stephane le Foll, spokesman for Socialist President Francois Hollande's government, which was beaten by the National Front in European Parliament elections in May, told France 2 TV that he would not comment on a court ruling.
However, he added: "What's revolting is what was said (posted) by this National Front candidate."
The National Front has expelled several members for racism or neo-Nazi sympathies since Marine Le Pen took over the leadership in 2011 from her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was convicted for belittling the Holocaust.
($1 = 0.7379 Euros)
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur; Editing by Kevin Liffey)