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Sarkozy causes furor for calling smear trial defendants 'guilty'

Sarkozy causes furor for calling smear trial defendants 'guilty'

French President Nicolas Sarkozy touched off a furor yesterday for declaring ex-Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and four others "guilty" of launching an alleged smear campaign before their trial has ended.
Villepin's lawyer called the comment "scandalous" and said the former prime minister would file suit against Sarkozy for violating his right to presumption of innocence.
The so-called Clearstream trial opened Monday with Villepin and four others in the dock accused of taking part in a plot hatched in 2003-2004 to smear Sarkozy and torpedo his bid for the presidency.
Opposition politicians said Sarkozy's remarks made on French television were a "revealing slip of the tongue" that showed he was not impartial in the case involving his arch-rival, Villepin.
"After a two-year investigation, two independent investigating judges ruled that the guilty parties should be tried before a criminal court," said Sarkozy during an interview Wednesday with French television.
Villepin and Sarkozy were locked in a fierce struggle for the governing right-wing party's nomination to succeed President Jacques Chirac.
"Mister Sarkozy has declared in front of all of France that Mr de Villepin is guilty, because he was ordered to stand trial," said Villepin's lawyer Olivier Metzner.
"This is a scandalous violation of fundamental principles," said defense lawyer Henri Leclerc.
Several politicians and lawyers said the comment was a major blunder given that the justice system in France, like that in other democracies, consider the accused innocent until proven guilty.
The case centers on a fabricated list of account holders at the Clearstream financial clearing house in Luxembourg who allegedly took bribes from the sale of French warships to Taiwan.
Sarkozy has registered as a civil plaintiff in the case, saying he wants the trial to reveal the truth about the bogus list and how his name ended up on it.


Updated : 2021-10-18 21:50 GMT+08:00