France's ex-president Sarkozy begins appeal against corruption conviction

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By Euronews, Reuters
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President of the National Assembly of France Yael Braun-Pivet attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe on Nov. 11.
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President of the National Assembly of France Yael Braun-Pivet attend a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe on Nov. 11.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool

France's former leader Nicolas Sarkozy today begins his appeal against a corruption conviction.

Last year, a court found Sarkozy -- who served as France's president from 2007 to 2012 -- guilty of trying to bribe a judge and influence peddling during his time in office. 

"Influence peddling", also called "traffic of influence" or "trading in influence", is the practice of using one's influence in government or any position of authority to obtain preferential treatment for another, usually in return for a payment.

The trial referred back to Sarkozy's and his lawyer's alleged attempts to bribe a judge with a job offer in exchange for confidential information on a legal case in which the 67-year-old former president was implicated. 

The case, which was looking into alleged illegal payments from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to fund Sarkozy's 2007 presidential campaign, was later dropped.

Sarkozywas given a three-year prison sentence. It was only the second time in modern French history that a former head of state was convicted of a crime -- after Jacques Chirac in 2011 -- and the first time a former president was found guilty of corruption.

His lawyer Thierry Herzog, 67, and the now-retired magistrate Gilbert Azibert, 75, were also found guilty and given the same sentence as the politician.

Sarkozy, who has always denied all allegations against him, appealed -- a move which has allowed him to remain free until now, despite the March 2021 conviction. 

The former president has admitted to offering Azibert get a job, but said he didn't ask for any favour in return related to the inquiry he was implicated in.

The case isn't the only legal trouble the former president is facing: in September 2021, Sarkozy was sentenced to a year of house arrest for exceeding France’s strict electoral spending limits to finance his 2012 re-election campaign. Again, he was given the chance to appeal the verdict.

The former president is appearing in front of the Paris court with co-defendants Herzog and Azibert, who also appealed.

The appeal trial will run until 16 December.