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Prosecutor seeks suspended sentence for Villepin

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2011-05-24

State prosecutor Jean-Louis Perol has asked a Paris court to hand former prime minister Dominique de Villepin, an arch-enemy of President Nicolas Sarkozy, a suspended jail sentence of 15 months.

REUTERS - A French state prosecutor urged an appeals court on Monday to find former prime minister Dominique de Villepin guilty of complicity in a plot to discredit President Nicolas Sarkozy in the runup to an election in 2007.

Prosecutor Jean-Louis Perol asked the court in Paris to hand Villepin, a possible candidate in the presidential election next April and an arch-enemy of Sarkozy, a suspended jail sentence of 15 months.

Villepin, who has quit Sarkozy’s centre-right UMP party, was acquitted last year in the first round of the trial but has landed back in court after an appeal by prosecutors.

He lashed out at the prosecution’s demands in a trial where the verdict, due to be handed down in the autumn, could poison the climate in the runup to a presidential election. Sarkozy is widely expected to run for a second term.

Villepin questioned the independence of the prosecutors, saying he had been hounded for years and acquitted in the first instance, only to find himself again in court.

“All this would be incomprehensible if it were not for the fact that the public ministry (prosecution) represents the justic minister, who in turn answers to the president, Nicolas Sarkozy,” Villepin told reporters outside the courtroom.

At the heart of the so-called Clearstream trial was a forged list of names linking Sarkozy among others to a corruption probe centred on secret Luxembourg bank accounts.

The principal charge levied against Villepin, prime minister from 2005 to 2007, is that he did nothing to stop the rumour mill when he knew the list was fake.

Prosecutor Perol devoted about six hours to explaining to the court on Monday why two other defendents should be convicted as the main people behind the plot, and Villepin found guilty of “complicity by abstention”.

Villepin, who has never been elected to public office, was chief of staff in the mid-1990s to former President Jacques Chirac, who named him prime minister in 2005 after stints as foreign and interior minister.

Date created : 2011-05-23

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