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France court acquits ex-PM of Sarkozy defamation

[JURIST] A French court on Thursday acquitted former prime minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] of all charges for his role in an alleged plot to defame several businessmen, including current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile, in French; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors claimed de Villepin failed to stop the circulation of false documents [France24 report], alleging Sarkozy profited from illegal arms deals when the two were vying for the presidency. Before his acquittal, de Villepin had faced the possibility of an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a €45,000 fine. Sarkozy said Thursday that he will not appeal the verdict [NYT report].

In October, de Villepin denied breaking the law and claimed that Sarkozy ordered the prosecution [JURIST report] for personal and political reasons. De Villepin and his alleged co-conspirators went on trial [JURIST report] last September. In November 2008, de Villepin was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for his connection with the long-running political scandal known as the Clearstream Affair [BBC backgrounder]. 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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