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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 20 June, 2019

Sarkozy says France is trying to 'humiliate and destroy' him

The former French President took to the airwaves to fight back.

Image: Jacques Brinon

FORMER PRESIDENT NICOLAS Sarkozy has accused France’s justice system of trying to “humiliate” and “destroy” him, after he was charged in a corruption probe that could spell trouble for his future political ambitions.

The former conservative party leader fought back in a broadcast interview yesterday, just hours after his release from questioning over a highly publicized investigation into judicial allegations that he took 50 million euros ($67 million) in illegal campaign funds from Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

The detention — a very unusual move for such a high-level figure — has dominated French news broadcasts, and comes as his faltering UMP political party has floated a possible comeback by the hard-driving 59-year-old.

Sarkozy, who spent nearly a day in custody on Tuesday answering questions about his 2007 presidential campaign, said on TF1 TV and Europe-1 radio that he was “profoundly shocked” over his 16-hour detention.

“Is it normal that I should be in custody for so long?” Sarkozy asked, squinting intensely at an interviewer. He said his detention was motivated out of “a desire to humiliate me.”

“A part of the justice system is being used for political purposes,” he said, warning of an unspecified plot.

“In our country … there are things that are in the process of being organized,” he said. “The French need to know them, and in their conscience, and freely, need to judge what’s happening.”

France Sarkozy Members of the media stand in front of the entrance to the anti-corruption office of the French police. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Le Monde newspaper has reported that the questioning centers on whether Sarkozy and his lawyers were informed about an investigation into the Libyan case by magistrate Gilbert Azibert, in exchange for promises — that were never fulfilled — for him to receive a post in Monaco.

“Azibert did not get a post in Monaco,” Sarkozy said. “There has been no move in favor of Monsieur Azibert.”

He hinted that the charges wouldn’t necessarily stop him for running for president again in 2017 — although he left people guessing about his future career plans.

“I’m not a man who is discouraged by villainy and political manipulation,” said Sarkozy, lashing out at what he called left-leaning magistrates “whose political obsession is to destroy the person who’s meant to be investigated.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the investigation was being carried out independently of the Socialist government. His boss, Socialist President Francois Hollande, defeated Sarkozy in the presidential race in 2012.

“This situation is serious. The facts are serious,” Valls told BFM TV.

Sarkozy is accused of tapping political allies to gain intelligence on a flurry of probes linked to campaign finance. He has vigorously denied the claims, and insisted Wednesday that he has “never betrayed trust” of the French people.

After further investigation, judges will determine whether to hold a trial.

Read: Former French President charged with corruption

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Associated Press

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