Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted on charges of corruption and influence-peddling on Monday and sentenced to one year in prison.
Sarkozy is the second French premier to face a criminal conviction in recent years, the first being Jacques Chirac in 2011. However, Chirac’s entire prison sentence was suspended, meaning Sarkozy would be the first French leader since Marshall Pétain to serve prison time.
Sarkozy has consistently maintained his innocence and is likely to appeal the ruling. The prison sentence would not begin until the appeal process is completed.
The former president, a conservative who led France from 2007 to 2012, faces a raft of legal issues stemming from alleged financial improprieties. The presiding judge in Sarkozy’s current case, Christine Mée, found that Sarkozy had illegally attempted to obtain information on a different case against him from another judge, while promising to help advance that judge’s career.
Sarkozy “used his status as a former president to reward a magistrate who served his personal interest,” Mée said, according to French media reports cited by The New York Times. Mée initially sentenced Sarkozy to three years in prison, but two of those years were suspended.
“What insane relentlessness, my love,” Sarkozy’s wife Carla Bruni posted on Instagram after the ruling. “The fight continues, the truth will emerge #injustice.”
Sarkozy is still popular among representatives from Les Républicains, France’s leading conservative political party.
Soutien indéfectible à @NicolasSarkozy. La sévérité de la peine retenue est absolument disproportionnée et révélatrice de l’acharnement judiciaire d’une institution déjà très contestée. Toute la lumière devra être faite sur les méthodes et l’indépendance du #PNF.
— Christian JACOB (@ChJacob77) March 1, 2021
“The severity of the sentence is absolutely disproportionate,” Les Républicains head Christian Jacob wrote on Twitter. ”