The relatives of eleven French engineers who were killed in a bombing in Pakistan in 2002 have demanded that President Sarkozy and two other senior politicians be made to testify over alleged corrupt deals that may have caused their deaths.
AFP - Families of French engineers killed in a 2002 bomb attack in Pakistan pressed Thursday for President Nicolas Sarkozy to testify over alleged corruption linked to the deaths.
A lawyer for the families said they had lodged a demand with investigating magistrate Renaud Van Ruymbeke that he question Sarkozy, former president Jacques Chirac and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin in the case.
Van Ruymbeke is investigating parts of a complex case linked to sales of arms to Pakistan that has spawned allegations of illegal political funding, implicating Sarkozy's ally, former prime minister Edouard Balladur.
"Mr Sarkozy owes us this hearing, to say what he has to say -- he who has described this financial investigation as a fairytale," Sandrine Leclerc, the daughter of one of the men killed, told reporters.
"The civil parties insist that Nicolas Sarkozy can be heard, even if he is covered by presidential immunity," said the families' lawyer Olivier Morice.
"Nicolas Sarkozy must remove all ambiguity," he added.
Investigators suspect the bombing in Karachi in 2002, which killed 11 French engineers and three Pakistanis, was revenge for the cancelling of illegal commissions for officials involved in the sale of submarines to Pakistan.
On Wednesday French former defence minister Charles Millon confirmed the existence of kickbacks on the deals in testimony to Van Ruymbeke, a source close to the matter said.
French investigative news website Mediapart in June quoted Luxembourg police as saying that a company set up with Sarkozy's approval channelled money from arms deal commissions to fund political activities in France.
Balladur and Sarkozy, who served as his campaign spokesman for the 1995 election, have repeatedly dismissed the allegations of illegal party funding.
Sarkozy has not responded to the latest developments but previously dismissed the case as "a grotesque fairytale."
After Chirac beat Balladur to the presidency in 1995 he tasked Millon with ending kickbacks on arms contracts, cancelling a raft of commissions that were allegedly paid to Pakistani officers.
"For the Pakistani contract, looking at the secret service reports and analyses carried out by the (defence) ministry services, one has the absolute conviction that there were kickbacks," Millon was quoted as telling the judge on Wednesday.
Families of the victims of the Karachi bombing have complained of being treated with contempt by presidential officials.
"I felt like I was being taken for an idiot who had been summoned, not invited," when meeting presidential officials, Magali Drouet, another woman whose father was killed, was quoted as saying by Liberation newspaper Thursday.
Investigators have been examining allegations of kickbacks since 2008. The state prosecutor, who unlike an investigating magistrate is under government authority, had previously said there were no grounds for a corruption probe.
Morice alleged on Thursday that "at the head of the state they are afraid of this case progressing because it implicates Nicolas Sarkozy and those close to him."
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