Sarkozy sentenced to prison on corruption charges

Paris- Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted on Monday of corruption and influence-peddling charges and sentenced to three years in prison, including one year in prison, which surprised right-wing supporters and announced his intention to appeal.

Sarkozy, 66, will not be imprisoned but will be placed under house arrest with an electronic bracelet, and the appeal has been suspended.

Sarkozy, who served as President of France from 2007 to 2012 and has consistently maintained that he has not committed "the slightest corruption act", heard his sentence while standing in court and appeared unmoved. The former right-wing President made no statement as he left the room.

Hours after the verdict, his lawyer Jacqueline Lavon said her client had appealed the sentence, which he considered "too severe" and "null and void."

His supporters also expressed their "surprise" and "sadness", and his wife, model and former singer Carla Bruni, denounced on Instagram of "irrational cruelty"

The judges sentenced former investigating judge Gerard Eisper and former President Thierry Ertzog's famous lawyer, with a five-year ban on practicing law against the latter, who will also appeal the verdict.

The court considered that a "corruption pact" had been concluded between the three men. However, it did not agree with the prosecution's request for a four-year prison sentence, including two years in prison, as it considered that the image of the French presidency had been "damaged" by the case, which had "devastating effects".

The verdict comes as Sarkozy faces a second trial on March 17, known as the "Bigmalion" case over his campaign financing for the 2012 presidential election.

Sarkozy withdrew from politics in 2016 but remains very popular among the right-wing, a year before the next presidential election. Sarkozy called on the court to "exonerate him from this stigma."

The wiretapping case dates back to 2014. The use of WhatsApp and other encrypted messages was not widespread at the time, the former French president said.

As part of an investigation into libya's alleged financing of his 2007 election campaign, in which he was charged with four counts, judges discovered that Sarkozy was using a secret telephone line under the name "Paul Pismos" to communicate with his lawyer Thierry Ertzog.

About a dozen of their contacts allegedly revealed a "intent on corruption" between Nicolas Sarkozy, his lawyer and former judge Gérard Eisper.

The public prosecutor's office considers that the judge transmitted confidential information through Ertzog and attempted to influence sarkozy's appeal to the Court of Cassation in another case. Sarkozy, on the other hand, accepted the support of the judge's candidacy for a high-level position in Monaco.

"He made an effort," Ertzog said in a court call.

The prosecution requested that the three defendants be sentenced to four years' imprisonment, including two years suspended, with a five-year ban on practicing for Ertzog.

Defense lawyers argued that these contacts were "mere gossip between friends", denouncing "fantasies", "hypotheses" and "prosecution of intentions" by the prosecution.

Defence lawyers stressed the complete absence of evidence and demanded that the accused be acquitted.

They declined to comment before the verdict was read out.

In court, they said that Sarkozy ultimately did not get a favourable verdict in the Court of Cassation and that Azibir had not succeeded in securing a position in Monaco. Under the law, it is not necessary for the party to receive the promised return or to have effective influence in order to describe acts as being part of corruption or influence-

Throughout the trial, which took place in a heated atmosphere, the defence demanded that the trial, which in his opinion was based on "illegal" wiretaps, be annulled the confidentiality of the lawyer-client exchange.

The defendants' lawyers also undermined a parallel preliminary investigation by the Public Prosecutor's Office. The investigation aims to identify a double agent who informed 2014 thierry Ertzog that the Bismouth line was being bugged, leading to in-depth scrutiny of phone bills.

And save the investigation without result. An administrative investigation has been under way since September involving three judges from the Financial Prosecutor's Office, including its former president, Elian Olit, to be released shortly.

In this tense atmosphere, the current Chief Financial Prosecutor Jean-François Bonner personally attended the hearing to defend the body that had just been set up when the "wiretapping" case broke out, stressing that "no one here is seeking revenge against a former president of the Republic."

Sarkozy became the second French president to be convicted under the Fifth Republic after Jacques Chirac, who was sentenced in 2011 to two years in prison for a two-year suspended prison sentence in a case of fictitious jobs in the Paris municipality of Paris, of which he was president.

 

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