A French comedian was within his rights to call Front National (FN) leader Marine Le Pen a "fascist bitch" in a magazine column, a French court has found.

Nicolas Bedos used the term to describe Le Pen, whose party leads polls ahead of the French local elections, with the first round taking place on 22 March, in a 2012 magazine article.

Le Pen sued Bedos and the magazine's editor, Maurice Szafran, but a Paris appeals court has ruled Bedos had not broken the law using the term.

The judges ruled it was "perfectly clear to any reader that the column in question was being deliberately provocative", reports Le Figaro.

In 2014, judges ruled it was legitimate to describe Le Pen as a fascist, after she sued left-wing commentator Jean-Luc Mélenchon for remarking "Why do you think that the French people would be the only people to want a fascist as a leader?" after being shown a poll revealing Le Pen was in the lead ahead of the first round of the 2012 presidential election.

The Paris court ruled Mélenchon's use of the term to describe Le Pen was protected under freedom of speech laws.

"If the term fascist can have insulting connotations when used outside of any political context or if accompanied by other demeaning terms, it has, on the other hand, no insulting character when employed between political opponents on a political subject," the court ruled, reports the local. In court, Mélenchon had pointed out Le Pen had described Islamists as "fascists".

Le Pen, a trained lawyer, has threatened to sue anyone who calls her or the FN "extreme right", as it battles to clean up the party's image. The FN is surging in the polls ahead of the French local elections, after claiming first place in the European elections in 2014.