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France prosecutors seek suspended sentence, fine for ex-PM accused in Sarkozy defamation

[JURIST] Paris prosecutors requested Tuesday that former prime minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] receive an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a €45,000 fine for his role in an alleged plot to defame several businessmen including current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors claim de Villepin failed to stop the circulation of false documents [France 24 report] alleging Sarkozy profited from illegal arms deals when the two were vying for the presidency. The charges against de Villepin carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison. De Villepin denied breaking the law [Parisien report, in French] and claimed Tuesday that Sarkozy ordered the prosecution for personal and political reasons. A verdict is expected early next year.

De Villepin and his alleged co-conspirators went on trial [JURIST report] last month. Last November, de Villepin was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for "complicity in slanderous denunciation" in connection with a long-running political scandal known as the Clearstream Affair [BBC backgrounder]. In 2006, French authorities searched de Villepin's home and questioned [JURIST reports] him for 17 hours in connection with the scandal. De Villepin's political image was tainted by the allegations as well as by his advance of an unpopular youth labor law [JURIST news archive] during his time as prime minister.

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