French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been accused of interfering in the trial of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin by describing him in a television interview as “guilty”.
Villepin is alleged to have attempted to smear Sarkozy during the election campaign in 2007 by implicating him in a corruption scandal. Interviewed on national French television Sarkozy said: “After 2 years of investigation two independent judges felt that perpetrators should be brought before a criminal court.” But Villepin’s lawyers believe Sarkozy’s gone too far. Maître Olivier Metzner said: “This is the most serious attack on the presumption of innocence that has ever taken place in France. What does it mean? A journalist or anyone else can say it. But when the President of the Republic can say that a man is guilty before he’s been judged, that is unacceptable.” The name Clearstream comes from the Luxembourg bank where individuals on a forged list in which Sarkozy’s name appeared, were alleged to have received bribes from international arms sales. Villepin denies any wrongdoing and says he is himself the victim of injustice, compounded by what he calls the president’s relentless fixation with the case and Sarkozy’s involvement in the criminal trial as a civil plaintiff.