Sarkozy slander trial ends, verdict due January 28

Judges in France's "trial of the decade", in which former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is accused of trying to smear Nicolas Sarkozy before he became French president, will announce their verdict at the end of January.


AFP - The politically-explosive trial of former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin and four others accused of plotting to derail Nicolas Sarkozy's bid for the presidency ended on Friday.

Judges will hand down a verdict on January 28 in the case, in which Villepin claims to be the victim of a personal vendetta by the French president.

The 55-year-old diplomat is charged with conspiring in 2004 to discredit Sarkozy with falsified documents, while the pair were jostling to succeed president Jacques Chirac.

Villepin accused Sarkozy of hanging him "from a butcher's hook" as prosecutors called this week for an 18-month suspended sentence against him -- far less than the maximum five years he was facing.

The former prime minister also faces a a 45,000-euro (70,000-dollar) fine for complicity to slander, complicity to use forgeries, dealing in stolen property and breach of trust.

The complex 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 was on the list and the French leader -- one of 39 civil plaintiffs -- alleges the scandal was fabricated to tarnish him ahead of his party's nomination for the 2007 presidential vote, which he won.

A three-year jail sentence, with all but 18 months suspended, was requested for co-defendant Jean-Louis Gergorin, a former aerospace executive who leaked the bogus list to investigators.

Prosecutors called for a two-year sentence with six months suspended for Imad Lahoud, the mathematician who admitted to adding Sarkozy's name to the fake list.

They asked for the acquittal of journalist Denis Robert and a four-month suspended sentence for accountant Florian Bourges, who played a minor role.

The month-long trial yielded mostly contradictory versions of the events and judges will probably be forced to pore over the 40 volumes of written evidence to reach a verdict.



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