Paris In the spectacular trial of suspected bribery and unauthorized influence, the prosecution has called for a four-year prison term for French ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy. Two of them are to be suspended, as the French media unanimously reported on Tuesday evening. The conservative Sarkozy ruled the Élysée Palace from 2007 to 2012.
The 65-year-old politician is accused of trying in 2014, through his legal counsel, to learn investigative secrets from Gilbert Azibert, then an advocate general at the Court of Cassation. In return, the ex-president is said to have offered to support the lawyer in applying for a post in Monaco.
Sarkozy had denied the allegations in court. “I have never committed the slightest act of bribery,” he said in court on Monday.
At the beginning of the trial in November, it was said that Sarkozy, his long-time lawyer Thierry Herzog and Azibert each face prison sentences of up to ten years and a fine of one million euros. For Herzog and Azibert the same punishment was demanded as for Sarkozy.
The public prosecutor justified their actions beforehand: “Nobody here wants to take revenge on a former president of the republic,” said the chief investigator of the financial prosecutor’s office, Jean-François Bohnert, according to the French news agency AFP.
A one-time process
The procedure is considered to be one-time, as there have not been any allegations of corruption against an ex-head of state in the Fifth Republic of France, founded by Charles de Gaulle in 1958.
The allegations are based on the evaluation of tapped phone calls between the politician and Herzog. There had long been heated arguments about the legality of this wiretapping. In early 2014, they also used cell phones registered under the pseudonym Paul Bismuth for calls. The devices were bugged because there were suspicions that Libya had given money for Sarkozy’s successful 2007 presidential election campaign.
It is not the first time that a former gentleman of the Elysée Palace has been charged. Sarkozy’s predecessor in office Jacques Chirac was sentenced to a suspended sentence of two years for embezzlement and breach of trust during his time as Mayor of Paris. The conservative did not have to appear in court because of health problems.
Sarkozy appeared in court as a normal citizen. In 2014 he had already said goodbye to power. Presidents are protected by extensive immunity in France. The process is due to end this Thursday
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