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France opens investigation into Sarkozy aide spying allegations

Thomas Samson, AFP | Former French interior Claude Guéant (left) and Thierry Solère in the Parisian suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt in May 2012.

The Paris prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation Wednesday into allegations that France’s intelligence agency monitored an aide to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.

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Allegations that the DGSE (Directorate-General for External Security) secretly monitored the communications of Thierry Solère, a centre-right politician, back in 2012 emerged Tuesday in an exclusive report in French daily Le Monde.

A day later, Paris prosecutor François Molins announced the launch of a preliminary investigation into the "fraudulent collection of personal data, invasion of privacy and concealment of a crime" in the Solère case.

The covert surveillance started in March 2012, according to Le Monde, when Solère – then a dissenting member of Sarkozy’s UMP party – was running for a local election against Claude Guéant, who was France’s interior minister from February 11 to May 2012.

In the June 2012 local election, Solère beat Guéant by a narrow margin in the Hauts-de-Seine department.

A defeated Guèant then denounced the “lies” and “anti-republican procedures” employed by his political rival.

According to Le Monde, the top-secret surveillance of Solère’s communication was interrupted by a chance discovery by the DGSE technical department, which caused a rift in the upper echelons of the French intelligence agency.

Responding to Le Monde’s article on Tueday, Guèant dismissed the report as “fantasy” and denied any role in Solère’s alleged surveillance.

Solère is currently in charge of the primary race to elect a Les Républicains presidential candidate for the 2017 race. The centre-right UMP party was renamed Les Républicains in May 2015.

Responding to queries Tuesday over whether he intends to file a complaint into the investigations, Solère said he would “probably” do so.

Speaking to reporters, Solère denounced the alleged covert surveillance measures and suggested that France’s intelligence services would be better used ensuring the safety of its citizens.

"When I see that I was supposed to have been bugged by the DGSE, in March 2012, I remember the March 19 [2012] attack by Mohammed Merah,” said Solère, referring to the “Toulouse gunman” who conducted a series of attacks in southern France that killed seven people, including children at a Jewish school.

“I cannot imagine that our services, for whom I have the deepest respect...who must ensure the safety of the French people, can be used in this way.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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