Former French right-wing president Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday vowed to “go all the way” to clear his name, two days after receiving a three-year sentence for corruption following a trial he described as a travesty of justice.
A Paris court has ruled that the 66-year-old right-winger had formed a “corruption pact” with his lawyer Thierry Herzog to persuade a judge to obtain and share information about an investigation into the financing of Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.
Sarkozy, who in December became France’s first modern head of state to appear on the bridge, has announced that he wants to appeal.
In two interviews on Wednesday, he paralyzed the verdict and said he was considering filing a complaint with Europe’s Supreme Court.
“I never betrayed the confidence of the French people,” the French president told the TF1 channel from 2007 to 2012 in an early interview, noting that the French court had convicted him of corruption despite concluding that “not a cent” had changed hands and that no favors had been granted.
With three other lawsuits pending against him, Monday’s conviction strikes a chord with all hope that Sarkozy has to make a new political comeback after a failed attempt to win a 2016 presidential candidate.
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Sarkozy, a polarizing presence who is a hate figure to many on the left but remains popular on the right, told TF1 that he had “turned the page” on his political career.
Despite being sentenced to three years in prison, Sarkozy is not expected to serve time: two of the three years were interrupted by the court with the remaining year served at home with an electronic bracelet.
‘Painful for me’
The court told the court that Sarkozy’s crimes were “particularly serious after being committed by a former president who guaranteed the independence of the judiciary”.
In an interview with Le Figaro daily Sarkozy, a trained lawyer, said the verdict was “full of inconsistencies” and was based on “a lot of circumstantial evidence”.
“Perhaps it will be necessary to take this fight to the (Strasbourg-based) European Court of Human Rights,” he said.
“It would be painful for me to have my own country condemned, but I am ready because it would be the price of democracy.”
The verdict is far from marking the end of Sarkozy’s legal misery.
On March 17, the former president is scheduled for a second trial on charges of fraudulent overuse in his failed 2012 re-election.
In a strongly worded editorial, the newspaper Le Monde urged Sarkozy to put an end to his confrontation with the French legal system and stop whipping up his followers’ anger towards judges.
“Today he is reaping what he has sown and must consider that it is appropriate to continue this populist surplus, which has not only become a trap for him but also a risk to the country,” it said.
But the newspaper Le Parisien expressed sympathy for Sarkozy in an editorial that condemned the judiciary’s “relentless unpleasantness” towards ex-politicians.
The newspaper staff distanced themselves from the management.
Sarkozy’s right-wing ally has rushed to his defense, portraying him as a victim of a witch-hunt by France’s national economic prosecutor.
“When some judges start playing politics, the role of lawmakers is to strongly condemn it,” Guillaume Peltier, deputy leader of the right-wing opposition Republican Party, told LCI television.
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Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, a former member of Sarkozy’s Republican Party who was poached by President Emmanuel Macron, also expressed support for the defendant.
“I know he’s an honest man,” Darmanin explained.
Prior to his conviction, Sarkozy’s name had been moved as the ideal candidate to unite the right against Macron in the 2022 presidential election.
In 2016, he was beaten in the Republican presidential election by his former prime minister Francois Fillon, who later crashed out of the race after being accused of fraud.
Sarkozy has also been accused of receiving millions of euros from the late Libyan dictator Moamer Gadhafi for his 2007 election campaign.
And in January, prosecutors opened another investigation into Sarkozy’s alleged influence over his advisory activities in Russia.