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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs