Can presidents go to jail

Corruption process in France : Ex-President Sarkozy sentenced to imprisonment

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been sentenced to three years in prison for bribery and illicit influence. Two years of this will be suspended. Sarkozy now wants to appeal. This was announced by his lawyer Jacqueline Laffont. The verdict was "extremely harsh" and "unjustified," said Laffont.

According to the court's decision, Sarkozy does not have to go to prison: he can serve the sentence at home under electronic surveillance. In France, however, the verdict is unprecedented: So far, in the “Fifth Republic” founded in 1958, no previous head of state has been punished so severely.

The judges also sentenced Sarkozy's longtime attorney Thierry Herzog and lawyer Gilbert Azibert to three-year prison terms, also with two-year probation. The negotiations in court had caused a sensation in France at the end of last year.

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According to the indictment in 2014, Sarkozy tried to obtain investigative secrets about Herzog from the lawyer Azibert. In essence, this behavior endangered the independence of the judiciary, argued the prosecution.

The conservative Sarkozy ruled the Elysée Palace from 2007 to 2012. He had denied the allegations in court at the end of last year. He is still considered a leadership icon by numerous supporters of the civil rights, although he no longer has any offices.

The allegations are based on the use of tapped phone calls between the politician and lawyer Herzog. There had been a heated argument about the legality of this wiretapping. The procedure is considered to be one-time. But it is not the first time a former president has been convicted. Sarkozy's predecessor Jacques Chirac received a suspended sentence of two years for embezzlement and breach of trust during his time as Mayor of Paris.

There will be another trial in mid-March

Sarkozy's time in the Élysée was shaped by affairs over wealthy friends, immoderate members of the government or nepotism. The former hope of the right had started his career as mayor. He finally lost to the socialist François Hollande in 2012. After his resignation, he wanted to become president again five years later - but failed in the party's internal selection process.

Sarkozy faces a legal hurdle. Because of expenses for his unsuccessful re-election campaign, there will be another trial in the middle of the month. The judiciary has also been investigating alleged payments by Libya for its successful presidential election campaign in 2007 for years. Sarkozy also rejects all allegations here.

"Sarko", as he is often called, even fueled speculation about a possible political comeback. Last summer he published the volume of memoirs "Le Temps des Tempêtes" ("The Time of the Storms"), which became a bestseller. Presidents are protected by extensive immunity in France. (dpa)

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