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Judgement day for French justice minister in conflict of interest trial

Tan KW
Publish date: Wed, 29 Nov 2023, 10:35 PM
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PARIS - A special tribunal will on Wednesday rule whether French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti abused his position to settle scores with magistrates and prosecutors with whom he had sparred during his career as a top lawyer.

The case is being heard by the Cour de Justice de la Republique, a judicial body created in 1993 to deal with suspected offences committed by members of the government during the exercise of their powers.

Dupond-Moretti has remained in office during the investigation and trial but a guilty verdict would put pressure on President Emmanuel Macron, who swept to power in 2017 promising to clean up politics, to fire his minister.

Dupond-Moretti denies wrongdoing.

"For me and those close to me, this trial is a disgrace," Dupond-Moretti told the tribunal, which is presided over by three judges and a dozen lawmakers, French media reported.

A pugnacious orator, Dupond-Moretti is alleged to have failed to have stepped back sufficiently from a case against a magistrate with whom he had sparred whilst a lawyer.

Other allegations center on a lawsuit he filed against the office of the financial prosecutor (PNF) shortly before taking up his ministerial post, accusing the PNF of invading his privacy by obtaining his phone records during a probe into alleged corruption by former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

Dupond-Moretti withdrew the lawsuit when weeks later he was appointed to run the judiciary, but later launched a disciplinary inquiry against judges inside the PNF.

Macron's political opponents criticise the president for not taking action against several ministers and senior officials inside the executive facing legal probes.

The government's spokesman on Tuesday said Dupond-Moretti had the right to be presumed innocent pending the court's ruling.

The special tribunal launched an investigation after an anti-corruption group and three magistrates' unions filed conflict of interest complaints against Dupond-Moretti.

Dupond-Moretti has said the unions were using the allegations of conflict of interest and abuse of office to block judicial reforms.

Since its creation in 1993, the Cour de Justice de la Republique has held only nine formal trials, including Dupond-Moretti's.

Past defendants have included former finance minister and current head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde. In 2016, she was found guilty of negligence over a government payout. She escaped punishment and kept her job at the IMF.

 


  - Reuters

 

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