Corruption trial for France’s Sarkozy to go ahead Monday

PARIS (AP) — A landmark trial involving allegations of corruption and influence-peddling by former French President Nicolas Sarkozy will begin in earnest Monday, after a Paris court rejected an appeal for a delay by an ailing co-defendant.

After the co-defendant, 73-year-old magistrate Gilbert Azibert, was examined by a judicial expert at his Bordeaux home, the judges ruled Thursday that he was fit to appear in person in court.

The trial was meant to begin earlier this week, but Azibert’s lawyer argued that his client’s poor health made it risky for him to travel and appear in court amid the coronavirus pandemic. Judges suspended the proceedings until Thursday pending the expert medical report.

It’s the first time the 65-year-old Sarkozy is facing trial, though the conservative politician is the target of multiple investigations.

In the current case, Sarkozy is accused of having tried to illegally obtain information from Azibert about a campaign finance investigation in 2014.

Sarkozy, Azibert and Sarkozy’s former lawyer, Thierry Herzog, face prison sentences of up to 10 years and a maximum fine of 1 million euros ($1.2 million). They deny any wrongdoing.

Azibert’s lawyer, Dominique Allegrini, disagreed with Thursday’s decision but said “what really matters now is seeing the debates continue in serene conditions so that we can, finally … present Gilbert Azibert’s defense and defend his honor after it was mistreated during the several years of the investigation.”

Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012. He withdrew from active politics after failing to be chosen as his conservative party’s presidential candidate for France’s 2017 election, won by Emmanuel Macron.

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