Nicolas Sarkozy: 'French justice system is trying to destroy me'
Published 02/07/2014 | 20:00
Former president Nicolas Sarkozy has accused the French justice system of trying to "destroy" him, after he was charged in a corruption probe.
The former conservative party leader was questioned over a highly publicised judicial investigation linked to allegations he took 50 million euros (£40 million) in illegal campaign funds from Libya's Muammar Gaddafi years ago.
He denied the claims and said "a part of the justice system is being used for political purposes".
It comes as his political comeback has been floated by his faltering UMP party.
French prime minister Manuel Valls said the judicial investigation is being carried out independently of the Socialist government, which defeated Mr Sarkozy in elections in 2012.
"This situation is serious, the facts are serious," he told BFM television. "The indictment concerns magistrates - high level magistrates - a lawyer, a former president of France.
"But as head of the government, I'm asking that we recall the independence of the justice system, which must carry out its work serenely.
"No one is above the law, is the second principle. And thirdly, and it is important to remind it, there is the presumption of innocence which applies to everybody."
Lawyers for Thierry Herzog, Mr Sarkozy's lawyer, and magistrate Gilbert Azibert said the men were handed preliminary charges of influence trafficking.
The French daily Le Monde says the questioning centres around whether Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer were kept informed about the investigation into the Libyan allegations by Mr Azibert in exchange for promises of a post in Monaco.
He did not receive a job in Monaco and Mr Sarkozy has vigorously denied wrongdoing.
After further investigation, judges will determine whether to bring the case to trial.
Suspicions are based at least in part on taped phone conversations between Mr Sarkozy and Mr Herzog.
Mr Herzog's lawyer, Paul-Albert Iweins, sharply criticised the decision to take the men into custody for questioning, which lasted into the early hours of today.
"None of these men is going to flee, they are not going to ignore a summons," he told France Info. "The only reason to detain them is to apply psychological pressure."