Sarkozy’s lawyer delivers closing arguments
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The final week of hearings in France’s “trial of the decade” has come to a head with President Nicolas Sarkozy's lawyer Thierry Herzog delivering closing arguments on his behalf.
The final week of hearings in France’s “trial of the decade” came to a head Monday as President Nicolas Sarkozy sent his lawyer Thierry Herzog to deliver closing arguments on his behalf before the defence and prosecution give their final summations.
Former Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and four others are accused of conspiracy to slander Sarkozy in 2004 with falsified bank documents implicating him in a bribe-taking scheme.
The sensational trial opened a month ago, with suave career diplomat Villepin accusing his long-time rival, the ambitious outsider Sarkozy, of pursuing a personal vendetta against him.
Herzog intensified his attacks against Villepin in court this afternoon; he was expected to emphasize the gap between the former prime minister’s denials and the devastating testimony of General Philippe Rondot, who has said that Villepin specifically expressed interest in targeting Sarkozy.
"Did Dominique de Villepin conspire in 2004 to slander? The answer is yes," Herzog told the court.
Dressed in a black robe, the burly bespectacled Herzog said he was convinced that Villepin "colluded and agreed" with two other defendants to discredit Sarkozy with falsified documents linking him to a corruption scandal.
One of the most loyal and steadfast members of Sarkozy’s inner circle, Herzog has also been a personal friend of the president’s for roughly 30 years. But his extensive knowledge of the thorny Clearstream affair and his pointed and relentless questioning of Villepin’s testimony have not yet produced a breakthrough or even succeeded in ruffling Sarkozy’s adversary.
Herzog is therefore "expected to go in all guns blazing," according to FRANCE 24 correspondent Catherine Norris-Trent, who added that the lawyer's purpose for the day was to be "the mouthpiece of the French president."
The courtroom battle pitting Sarkozy against Villepin has captivated France for the last several weeks, and both politicians have used the press to speak out on the affair. In an interview with the right-leaning daily “Le Figaro” on Friday, Sarkozy was however more restrained than he had been in prior weeks: “What I want is for the truth to come out. It’s in the process of coming out. The best thing to do is to let the trial unfold, to put trust in justice and to abstain from any other commentary.”
Herzog’s closing statements will be followed on Tuesday by those of the prosecution. The defence will take the spotlight on Wednesday, with much attention focused on the final arguments of Villepin’s four lawyers.
The trial is expected to close on Friday evening with a verdict expected in early 2010.
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