Nicolas Sarkozy: Former French president to appeal guilty verdict in corruption trial

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is set to appeal after he was handed a one-year prison term and two-year suspended sentence for corruption and influence peddling.

The 66-year-old was convicted by a court in Paris on Monday for having tried to illegally obtain information from a senior magistrate in 2014 about a legal action in which he was involved.

The court said Sarkozy will be entitled to request to be detained at home with an electronic bracelet, meaning he is unlikely to go to jail.

He left the court without speaking, but his lawyer said he would appeal, and prove his innocence, describing the ruling as “extremely severe and wholly unjustified.”

And a post on his wife Carla Bruni’s Instagram account read: “What a senseless witch-hunt, my love @nicolassarkozy …. The fight will continue, the truth will see the light #injustice.”

The trial at the end of last year heard how the former politician, who was president from 2007 to 2012, forged a “corruption pact” with his lawyer Thierry Herzog, 65, and senior magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 74.

The trial focused on phone conversations that took place in February 2014. At the time, investigative judges had launched an inquiry into the financing of the 2007 presidential campaign.

During the investigation, they incidentally discovered that Sarkozy and Herzog were communicating via secret mobile phones registered to the alias “Paul Bismuth”.

According to wiretapped conversations, Sarkozy instructed Herzog to promise Azibert a job in Monaco in exchange for leaking information about another legal case in which he was involved.

The court said the facts were “particularly serious” given that they were committed by a former president who used his status to help a magistrate who had served his personal interest.

In addition, as a former lawyer, he was “perfectly informed” about committing an illegal action, the court said.

Sarkozy’s two co-defendants – Herzog and Azibert – were also found guilty and given the same sentence.

This is the first time in France‘s modern history that a former president has gone on trial for corruption.

Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was found guilty in 2011 of misuse of public money and given a two-year suspended prison sentence for actions during his time as Paris mayor, but he did not end up having to appear in court because of ill health.

Sarkozy will face another trial later this month along with 13 other people on charges of illegal financing of his 2012 presidential campaign.

His party is suspected of having spent 42.8m euros, almost twice the maximum authorised, to finance the campaign, which ended in victory for Francois Hollande.

In another investigation opened in 2013, Sarkozy is accused of having taken millions from then-Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi to illegally finance his 2007 campaign.

He was handed preliminary charges of passive corruption, illegal campaign financing, concealment of stolen assets from Libya and criminal association. He has denied wrongdoing.

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