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French Ex-Premier Goes on Trial for Slander


Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin is among five defendants in one of France's most sensational trials in years. The case involves an alleged smear campaign targeting then candidate, now president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has been accused of complicity in the forgery and dissemination of a fake list of names of clients who supposedly held secret accounts with a clearing house in Luxembourg called Clearstream. The list indicated the accounts were created for leading political and business figures to hold bribes linked to the sale of French warships to Taiwan in 1991.

Nicolas Sarkozy's name appeared on the fake list in 2007, while he was running for president and de Villepin was his top rival for the job.

Mr. Sarkozy accuses Mr. de Villepin of trying to throw his campaign off course. The indictment says Mr. de Villepin knew the list was a hoax and should have alerted judicial authorities earlier.

Mr. de Villepin denies the charges against him, that include "complicity to slanderous denunciations" and "complicity in using forgeries". In an interview last week on France-Info radio he said his conscience is clear.

He said for months the French public has been presented with stories - and justice, by contrast, was about truth. He said he was happy the trial was opening because now matters would return to facts and law. He said he had nothing to reproach himself for.

Mr. de Villepin has also questioned whether he will be able to get a fair trial, since the French president is one of about 40 plaintiffs in the case. If found guilty Mr. de Villepin faces up to five years in jail and a $550,000 fine.

Four other defendants are also on trial, including the former vice president of EADS, the parent company of European aeronautics manufacturer Airbus. The trial is expected to wrap up late next month.


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