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A high-profile trial has wrapped up in France Friday pitting two bitter
political rivals - French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime
minister Dominique de Villepin, who stands accused of participating in
a smear campaign against Mr. Sarkozy five years ago.
Known as the "Clearstream affair,"
the trial has riveted France. It ended Friday and the verdict is
expected in late January. Prosecutors demanded an 18-month suspended
sentence against the most high-profile defendent - former prime
minister Dominique de Villepin. He also faces a $70,000 fine if found
guilty of slander and complicity to use forgery, among other charges.
case is a tangled one, involving a number of prominent defendents
and plaintiffs, including President Nicolas Sarkozy. Mr. Sarkozy and
Mr. de Villepin are longterm rivals. The prosecution claims Mr. de
Villepin conspired to discredit Mr. Sarkozy by implicating him in a
bogus list of people who allegedly received kickbacks in an arms deal.
affair erupted when both Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. de Villepin were vying to
succeed former president Jacques Chirac as head of state.
de Villepin claims he is innocent and has accused Mr. Sarkozy of
hanging him "from a butcher's hook." His lawyer, Olivier Metzner, has
offered a passionate defense of his client.
reporters the trial is based on pure fabrication and the dossier
against Mr. de Villepin is empty. Mr. de Villepin, he said, is being
blamed for having done nothing.
One thing is certain - the trial has cast a shadow on France's political elite, regardless of what verdict is delivered.