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France

Court enters final day of proceedings

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-10-22

Lawyers for former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin accused prosecutors Thursday of building a case to please the "pernicious prince" Nicolas Sarkozy. The trial ends Friday, but the verdict is expected in January.

Lawyers for former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin accused prosecutors Wednesday of building a case to please the "pernicious prince" Nicolas Sarkozy and called for an acquittal.

The case centres on a fake list of account holders from the Clearstream financial clearing house who were said to have received kickbacks from the sale of French warships to Taiwan.

Sarkozy's name ended up on the faked list. Sarkozy’s lawyer has claimed that de Villepin was the prime instigator in the plot, with the aim of preventing Sarkozy from winning the governing party's nomination and thus succeeding then president Jacques Chirac.

Delivering closing arguments in the sensational trial, lawyer Luc Brosselet attacked a "schizophrenic" case against his client which he said hinged on shaky evidence from unreliable witnesses, namely Jean-Louis Gergorin and Imad Lahoud - who the defence claim have lied throughout the investigation.

Brosselet said: "Gergorin never tells the truth except when it comes to incriminating Dominique de Villepin."

"A fantasy"

The lawyer also took aim at former spymaster General Philippe Rondot whose notes - seized by investigators and allegedly showing that de Villepin wanted to tarnish Sarkozy’s reputation - are considered a key piece of evidence.

"These notes were a fantasy, from beginning to end," he said.

"Since the beginning, this case bears the mark of one man and shows the desire of a pernicious prince," said Brosselet in a clear reference to Sarkozy.

"This is a political trial but you are not a political tribunal," Brosselet told the judges trying the so-called Clearstream affair.

"This is an exercice in legal schizophrenia," he said in his final plea for acquittal as France's trial of the decade headed to its finale.

"Accomplice through silence"

On Tuesday, prosecutors called for an 18-month suspended sentence and a 45,000 euro fine to be handed down against de Villepin.

Prosecutors allege that de Villepin had failed to take action to stop the conspiracy and was therefore an "accomplice through silence".

De Villepin "allowed the conspiracy to continue and to develop even though he had the ability, and also the duty, to put a halt to it," said chief prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin.

The trial ends on Friday but judges are not expected to give their verdict before January 2010.

Date created : 2009-10-22

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