France: Court of Appeal upholds verdict against Nicolas Sarkozy

France: Court of Appeal upholds verdict against Nicolas Sarkozy
France: Court of Appeal upholds verdict against Nicolas Sarkozy

In an appeal process, French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy tried to defend himself against a three-year prison sentence – without success. And the scandal-ridden conservative is already threatened with the next trial.

An appeals court has upheld the conviction of France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy for bribery and trading in influence. In its judgment on Wednesday, the court in Paris upheld the conviction of the 68-year-old in the first instance to three years in prison, two of which were suspended. Sarkozy is allowed to serve the one-year prison sentence at home under electronic surveillance. However, whether it will ever come to that is still an open question. The former head of state can appeal the decision.

Such a verdict against a former head of state was unprecedented in France’s recent history and a severe blow to Sarkozy. The execution of the sentence was initially suspended because of the strained appeal. In the appeal process, the public prosecutor’s office has now asked for probation every three years. Sarkozy himself denied the allegations, his lawyer called the verdict “extremely harsh” and “unjustified”.

Judge: Sarkozy’s actions weigh more heavily

Specifically, the case is about the fact that the former conservative president is said to have tried in 2014 through his long-time lawyer Thierry Herzog to obtain investigative secrets from the lawyer Gilbert Azibert in another affair. In return, Azibert was offered assistance in applying for a post in Monaco. In essence, this behavior endangered the independence of the judiciary, the indictment said. Herzog and Azibert were also sentenced to three years in prison each, two of them on probation. The Court of Appeal upheld those sentences on Wednesday.

As the presiding judge Sophie Clément said in the verdict, the crimes committed by Sarkozy are all the more serious because they were committed by a former president.

Another trial for Nicolas Sarkozy threatened

Now the former civil rights star must brace himself for another possible and no less piquant trial. Charges were brought against him because of alleged election campaign millions from Libya. The financial public prosecutor accuses the 68-year-old of embezzlement of public funds, corruption and illegal election campaign financing. A year and a half ago, Sarkozy was sentenced to one year in prison for illegally financing the election campaign in view of his ultimately failed re-election campaign in 2012 – and he has appealed.

The investigation into the Libya affair was based on indications that Sarkozy’s election campaign in 2007 was illegally funded by the regime of the then Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi. A witness said in 2016 that in late 2006 or early 2007 he brought several suitcases containing millions of euros – prepared by the Libyan regime – to the Paris Interior Ministry, which was then headed by Sarkozy. Sarkozy had always denied the allegations.

Rich friends, excessive government officials, nepotism

The conservatives’ tenure in the Élysée Palace from 2007 to 2012 was marked by affairs involving rich friends, excessive members of the government and nepotism. The former right-wing hope began his career as mayor. In 2012, he lost his re-election to the presidency against the socialist François Hollande. Five years later he failed in the party’s internal selection process for the presidential election.

Many supporters of the civil right still regard Sarkozy as a leadership icon, although he no longer holds office. However, leading figures in the conservative Républicains are now trying to break away from Sarkozy. While in the past he had fueled speculation about a possible political comeback, he is now burdened by his convictions.

Source: Stern

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