News / Europe

    French Government on Defensive Over Sarkozy Phone Taps

    French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira waves at journalists at the Elysee Palace, following the weekly cabinet meeting, in Paris, March 12, 2014.
    French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira waves at journalists at the Elysee Palace, following the weekly cabinet meeting, in Paris, March 12, 2014.
    Reuters
    France's justice minister on Wednesday defied calls for her to quit after it emerged that she knew former President Nicolas Sarkozy's phone was being tapped, apparently contradicting an earlier statement from her.
     
    Sarkozy's opposition conservatives accuse the government of using the surveillance, ordered as part of a party funding inquiry, to discredit them before this month's local elections in which President Francois Hollande's Socialists risk losing ground.
     
    Justice Minister Christiane Taubira dismissed that accusation on Monday, saying she had not been informed about the phone-tapping before Le Monde newspaper revealed it last week.
          
    Barely 24 hours later, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault acknowledged on television late on Tuesday that he and Taubira did know of the surveillance. The opposition then called for Taubira to resign.
          
    Afterwards, the justice minister, in a hastily arranged appearance at a regular news briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting, rejected those demands, saying she had been misunderstood.
          
    “I did not have and do not have information on the date, length and content of the surveillance,” she said, adding that she “could have been more precise” in her initial statement.
          
    “No, I did not lie,” she said. “No, I will not resign.”
          
    Further complicating Taubira's position, Le Monde said it had photographed official documents she had waved in the air during the news briefing.
          
    It published excerpts from one of the documents, a letter sent by the prosecutor to the Justice Ministry, that appeared to contradict her statements that she was not aware of the dates of the phone-tapping and how long it lasted.
          
    Ayrault gave his support to Taubira as he emerged from the cabinet meeting minutes later, telling reporters, “She has her place in the government.”
          
    Taubira, a favorite of the French left, came to prominence last year for pushing through laws making same-sex marriages legal in the face of fierce street protests.
          
    Despite Ayrault's comments supporting Taubira, the affair has put Hollande's government on the defensive.
     
    Mid-term test    
     
    The opposition UMP party had itself been on the back foot over accusations of irregular party funding by its leader Jean-Francois Cope - which he denies - and leaked audio tapes revealing tensions in its leadership during the Sarkozy era.
          
    Investigators launched the phone-tapping last year after allegations that the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had funded Sarkozy's 2007 election campaign, a legal case that could yet cloud any political come-back by the 59-year-old.
     
    Sarkozy, who has hinted he may run for president in 2017 after Hollande ousted him in 2012, has denied all wrongdoing.
     
    The inquiry is still at a stage that remains secret under French legal procedure, precluding comment from investigating judges. No details of the conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer that were under surveillance have been made public.
          
    French voters go to the polls on March 23 and 30 to elect new city mayors in the first major mid-term test of Hollande's popularity since he took office in May 2012. His poll ratings are at record lows for failing to reduce unemployment and start turning around the euro zone's second-largest economy.
          
    Christian Jacob, parliamentary speaker for the conservative UMP party, said the government's admission that it was aware of the phone-tapping was “extremely serious” and demanded an emergency session of parliament on the matter.
          
    His opposite number accused the UMP of seeking to distract attention from allegations that its leader, Sarkozy protégé Cope, was involved in irregular party funding practices.
          
    “This is just a diversion tactic,” Socialist Party parliamentary chief Bruno Le Roux told Reuters. “Parliament can't open its own inquiry into something which is already a matter for judicial authorities.”

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora