Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday launched a defiant offensive to clear his name after being handed a three-year sentence for corruption, lambasting the verdict and mulling a petition to Europe’s top rights court.
Sarkozy, 66, gave a front-page interview to the newspaper Le Figaro and was due later yesterday to give a prime-time interview to the evening TF1 news bulletin.
With three other legal cases also pending against him, commentators have said that Monday’s conviction should deal a terminal blow to any hope Sarkozy has of a political comeback.
However, true to his combative reputation, the man who ruled France from 2007 to 2012 as a self-styled “hyper-president” indicated that he would not be going quietly.
“I can’t accept being convicted for something I didn’t do,” Sarkozy told Le Figaro.
Sarkozy, who will appeal, is not expected to go behind bars: The sentence includes two years suspended and the remaining year would be served at home with an electronic bracelet.
The judgement was “riddled with inconsistencies,” he said.
It “doesn’t provide any proof, but just a bunch of circumstantial evidence,” he said.
The court found that Sarkozy had formed a “corruption pact” with his former lawyer and friend Thierry Herzog to convince a judge, Gilbert Azibert, to obtain and share information about a legal investigation.
The crime was “particularly serious having been committed by a former president who was the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary,” the ruling said.
“Perhaps it will be necessary to take this battle to the European Court of Human Rights,” Sarkozy said. “It would be painful for me to have my own country condemned, but I am ready because that would be the price of democracy.”
The judgement is also far from marking the end of Sarkozy’s legal woes. On March 17, he is scheduled to face a second trial over accusations of fraudulently overspending in his failed 2012 re-election bid.
In a strongly-worded editorial, the newspaper Le Monde urged Sarkozy to put an end to his confrontation with the French legal system and stop whipping up the anger of his supporters toward judges.
“Today, he is reaping what he has sowed and must consider the advisability of continuing this populist excess, which has not only become a trap for him, but a risk for the country,” it said.
In a sign of what a polarizing figure Sarkozy has become, staff at the newspaper Le Parisien issued a statement through their unions distancing themselves from an editorial written by its director, Jean-Michel Salvator, backing Sarkozy.
His editorial castigated court decisions against Sarkozy which have shown “increased severity or relentless intransigence.”
Sarkozy has also been charged over allegations he received millions of US dollars from former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi for his 2007 election campaign.
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