Lawyers representing Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni on Thursday filed an emergency injunction against further publication of leaked recordings that reveal compromising comments made by the couple during the ex-president’s time in office.
They were recorded by a political advisor, Patrick Buisson, without the couple's knowledge.
Some extracts – without any really explosive content – have already been published by satirical weekly Le Canard Enchainé and news website Atlantico.
The revelation of what Buisson was doing while working as a close confidante of the centre-right president has sent shockwaves through the French political class.
Lawmakers across the political spectrum have denounced what they describe as an unprecedented act of treachery and, in some cases, a potential threat to national security.
In a statement, Sarkozy's lawyers said the former president and his supermodel wife had no option but to take legal action.
"The protection of private and secret conversations constitutes one of the foundations of a democratic society and they cannot accept comments made in private being recorded and published without their consent," they said.
The tapes lay bare the backroom manoeuvring and cynical comments targeting dozens of people in power circles – from former first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who said her income made poorly-paid Sarkozy “a kept man”, to government ministers – many of whom were described as "morons" by presidential aides captured on the recordings.
The decision to launch legal action will however inevitably fuel speculation that the tapes contain something more serious that could prove fatal for Sarkozy's comeback ambitions in the 2017 presidential election.
The initial legal action over the tapes is restricted to preventing their further diffusion or publication. But criminal proceedings could follow and the offences allegedly committed carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a 45,000 euro fine.
On Tuesday, Buisson’s lawyers confirmed that the tapes were authentic and intended for note-taking purposes.
Buisson says that most of the recordings were destroyed and those that survived and have now been made public must have been stolen. Buisson’s legal team announced Thursday that it would file a theft case with police.
How exactly the tapes came into the public domain is one of the many unexplained aspects of a scandal gripping France. Judicial sources involved in the opinion poll probe deny that any tapes were seized as part of their investigation.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-03-06