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French far-right party's appeal of cash freeze set for August

© AFP/File | Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right National Rally party, said her party will party will be insolvent by September 2018 if an appeal of a decision to withhold two million euros in public subsidies fails

PARIS (AFP) - 

A Paris court will hear on August 6 an appeal by France's far-right National Rally of a decision to withhold two million euros in public subsidies for the party as part of an EU funding inquiry.

Party chief Marine Le Pen announced the date Wednesday in a television interview, reiterating her warning that the party would face insolvency as soon as September without the money.

"We have asked for donations, which has given us another month of breathing space", Le Pen said last night.

But "if the court upholds the unfair decision made by the judges, then the RN will be insolvent by September", she said.

The party launched this month an emergency fund-raising drive which has raised between 300,000 and 400,000 euros ($350,000 to $465,000), party spokesman Sebastian Chenu said later Wednesday.

Le Pen and other National Rally lawmakers are accused of using public funds earmarked for European Parliament assistants to pay for France-based staff.

If convicted, the party could be ordered to repay seven million euros, which prompted the judges to pre-emptively seize the subsidies.

The money is given to political parties based on their election results, a common practice in many European countries in part to avoid potential political corruption.

The decision was denounced as a "death sentence" for the party by Le Pen, who has struggled to recover since her defeat to Emmanuel Macron in last year's presidential vote.

Several leading politicians of rival parties have come to her defence, not least because no verdict has yet been given.

The party has had a series of financial setbacks in recent years, with Le Pen claiming in November that her party was the target of a "banking fatwa" after HSBC and Societe Generale closed her personal and party accounts.

In 2014 the party, until recently called the National Front, took a nine million euro loan from a Russian bank.

© 2018 AFP