Sarkozy compares French judges to East German Stasi

Former French president criticises media, judiciary and government in open letter

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy: “Who could have imagined that, in 2014 in France, the right to privacy would be violated by telephone taps?” Photograph: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy: “Who could have imagined that, in 2014 in France, the right to privacy would be violated by telephone taps?” Photograph: Reuters/Benoit Tessier

Sat, Mar 22, 2014, 01:00


Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy yesterday retaliated against magistrates who are investigating his financial affairs, and against France’s socialist government and French media, with a vehement open letter a page and a half long in the conservative newspaper Le Figaro , titled “What I want to say to the French”.

“Contrary to what is written daily, I feel no desire to get involved today in the political life of our country,” Mr Sarkozy said in the text, which he wrote himself. He previously spoke out last July, when the constitutional council disqualified his campaign accounts, and again last October, when he was cleared of having abused the frailty of a campaign donor.

“It is my duty today to break this silence,” Mr Sarkozy continued. “If I do so, it is because the sacred principles of our republic are trampled underfoot with unprecedented violence and absence of scruples.”

Patrick Buisson, a former adviser to Mr Sarkozy, recorded conversations at the Élysée Palace that were leaked to the media. Judges ordered Mr Sarkozy’s telephones tapped in the context of an investigation into his campaign finances. Transcripts from both sources have been published by French media in recent weeks.

“Who could have imagined that, in 2014 in France, the right to privacy would be violated by telephone taps?” Mr Sarkozy asked. “The right to secret conversations between a lawyer and his client wilfully ignored? . . . The right to presumption of innocence desecrated? Calumny established as a government method? The justice of the republic manipulated through calculated leaks?”

Mr Sarkozy repeated twice that “I never liked complaining.” But he provided a detailed list of grievances. “In 20 months, I have undergone four searches which mobilised three judges and 14 policemen. I was questioned for 23 hours because I was suspected of taking advantage of the weakness of an old lady! Thousands of articles have been published against me . . . What remains of the mud so complacently spread?”


‘The Lives of Others ’
Mr Sarkozy notes that his telephones have been tapped for the past eight months. “Even today, anyone who calls me knows they will be listened to. You’re reading correctly. This is not an excerpt from the wonderful film Other People’s Lives about East Germany and the activities of the Stasi. It’s not about the abuses of some dictator . . . It’s about France.”

Mr Sarkozy goes on to note that the ministers of justice and the interior claimed ignorance of the wire taps. “Who are they kidding? It would be laughable if it weren’t a question of fundamental republican principles. The France of human rights has clearly changed.”

The allusion to the Stasi outraged President François Hollande and prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. In Brussels, where he was attending the European Council, Mr Hollande said that “any comparison with dictatorships is obviously unbearable”. He said there was “no longer intervention in individual [judicial] affairs” – implying that under Mr Sarkozy there was such intervention.

Mr Ayrault reacted in similar fashion, saying “to question the honour of the justice system and the police is a grave moral error”.

At least three socialist cabinet ministers compared Mr Sarkozy to the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. “I think Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to undertake a Berlusconi-inspired struggle against judges and magistrates,” said industry minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Laws which Mr Sarkozy pushed through as interior minister and as president eased regulations for phone tapping. Mr Sarkozy “does not want to be subjected to the law he voted and applied to others,” Mr Montebourg said.

In his letter, Mr Sarkozy insisted: “I never asked to be above the law, but I cannot accept being beneath it either.”