Prison sentence for former French president Sarkozy

Nicolas Sarkozy was sentenced on Monday to three years in prison, two of them suspended, for bribery and influence-peddling. The judges considered it proven that in 2014, after his time as French president, Sarkozy unlawfully gained access to judicial files about an inquiry being conducted against him. What are the implications of the verdict?

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Le Soir (BE) /

The separation of powers is working again

The judgment is tantamount to a revolution in France, Le Soir writes in delight:

“Where did this revolution come from? From the French press, which, obsessed with respect for public opinion, has regained its independence and also its taste for investigative journalism in recent years. And from the judiciary, which is also making a valuable contribution once again. In the course of the trial, which was conducted with the help of wiretapping protocols, the prosecutor specified: 'This is not an act of revenge. ... A former head of state has rights that must be respected, but above all it is his duty to respect the rule of law.”

The Spectator (GB) /

Corruption as default condition

The ruling will have little impact either on French society or on Sarkozy himself, writes columnist Jonathan Miller in The Spectator:

“Corruption is a default condition of French politics and beyond the cognoscenti doesn't attract enormous public attention. ... The French penitential estate has more limited facilities, no consultants that I know of, but then relatively few VIPs ever get locked up. Their sentences tend to get commuted or turned into an obligation to wear a tag or to perform public service. Sarkozy will appeal his sentence, so we'll see how he fares. La Santé [prison] is indeed equipped with a VIP 'special area' whose previous occupants have included Carlos the Jackal and novelist Jean Genet. But the facilities are said still to be rather primitive. I doubt I'm risking much to bet Sarkozy will not spend one night there.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Judiciary is too political

The fact that Sarkozy was convicted with the help of wiretapped phone conversations is proof of the politicisation of the French judiciary, le Figaro complains:

“These stolen words are in fact the result of a persistent and unscrupulous judicial campaign on the part of the National Financial Prosecutor's Office. ... Recent examples of judges as decisive political actors are surfacing once more: the closure of the investigation against Nicolas Sarkozy in the Bettencourt affair after years of court proceedings, the unusual speed of the trial against François Fillon, the paralysing poison of legal risk in the management of the pandemic. ... Certainly, politicians must set an example, and nothing protects them from the rigours of the law. But what allows the judiciary to give in to the very hubris that it relentlessly pursues among the people's representatives?”

Naftemporiki (GR) /

Far right will benefit

This is not the first time a former French president has been convicted, Naftemporiki points out:

“In 2011, Jacques Chirac, then 79, was sentenced to two years' probation for embezzling public funds. His adventures on the edge of the law were so well known that the Socialist youth used the slogan 'Vote for the swindler, but not for the fascist' in the 2002 presidential runoff election against Jean-Marie Le Pen. ... What is wrong with France's politicians? Are they more prone to corruption than other leaders or do French courts just do a better job? Be that as it may, one thing is for sure: all this has contributed to the fact that far-right politician Marine Le Pen is now leading in the opinion polls and can hope to win the 2022 presidential election.”