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Chirac backs French judiciary after Sarkozy criticism

[JURIST] French President Jacques Chirac [official profile, BBC profile] on Friday reaffirmed his confidence in the judiciary [press release, in French] after meeting with top members of the French judiciary who have asked Chirac to rein in French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, BBC profile] for his accusations that the Paris courts are too lenient on criminals. Sarkozy, who is seen as Chirac's probable successor to the presidency, referred to the courts in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, the site of last year's riots [JURIST news archive] and of continuing violent crime, when declaring on Wednesday, "I would like to know how we are supposed to prevent a criminal from offending again if we do not have the courage to put them in prison." These remarks prompted Judge Guy Canivet, head of France's high court, the Cour de Cassation [official website, in French], and Renaud Chazal de Mauriac, head of the Paris Court of Appeal, to call on Chirac to "expose the seriousness of these repeated attacks on the separation of powers laid out in the Constitution." The High Council of the Magistrature [official website] has also written to Chirac previously criticizing other incendiary remarks by the Sarkozy, whose is thought to be especially tough on immigration and crime.

After meeting with Canivet, Chirac praised the judiciary [AFP report] and emphasized the importance of "high standards regarding the independence of judges." French Prime Minister Dominique Villepin [official profile, BBC profile] also summoned a meeting of his top ministers and later reaffirmed their confidence in the courts. Canivet expressed satisfaction with the 45-minute meeting. AFP has more. Le Monde has local coverage [in French].

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