His lawyer said former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was sentenced to a year in prison on Thursday for illegal campaigning for the failure of his re-election in 2012, will appeal the verdict. The court sentenced him to a year in prison at home.
The court indicated that it would allow the former president to serve his sentence at home with an electronic bracelet recording his location.
Sarkozy’s lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said the punishment was the maximum his client could face. He said he spoke to Sarkozy and asked him to appeal.
“The ruling will not be applicable” while the appeal is being decided, he added.
Sarkozy, who served as the country’s president from 2007 to 2012, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Sarkozy was not in the courtroom when the Paris court announced its verdict. He was accused of spending nearly twice the maximum allowed by law – 22.5 million euros ($27.5 million) – on the re-election campaign he lost to socialist Francois Hollande.
The court stated that Sarkozy “knew” that the legal limit was in question and “voluntarily” did not monitor the additional expenditures. Prosecutors had requested a six-month suspended prison sentence for another six months and a fine of 3,750 euros ($4,354).
The 66-year-old former president was convicted on March 1 of corruption and abuse of power in another case. He was sentenced to one year in prison and another two years suspended for this process, but is free until the appeal is decided.
This is the first time in modern French history that a former president has been convicted and sentenced to prison for actions during his tenure. Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, was convicted in 2011 of embezzling public funds during his tenure as mayor of Paris and was given a two-year suspended prison sentence.
In the campaign finance case, the prosecution found that Sarkozy knew weeks before the 2012 elections that his spending – which is strictly limited by French law – was close to the legal limit. The prosecution accused him of ignoring two notes from his accountants alerting him to the matter.
On Thursday, the court said that while recognizing the risk of exceeding the limit, it decided to organize several gatherings, including some large ones. “These rallies were approved by Nicolas Sarkozy and benefited from them,” the court said.
During the trial, Sarkozy told the court that the extra money did not go to his campaign but helped enrich others. He denied any “fraudulent attempts” and insisted that he did not run the day-to-day management of the campaign because he had a team to do so and therefore could not be held responsible for the amount spent.
In addition to the former president, there were 13 other defendants, including members of his Conservative Party, Republicans, accountants and those responsible for the communications group responsible for organizing rallies, Pygmalion.
All have been convicted, and their sentences ranged from a suspended prison sentence to two years of house arrest using an electronic bracelet. The charges included forgery, fraud and complicity in illegal financing.
Some admitted wrongdoing and detailed a false invoice system that was intended to cover the entire additional cost.
Prosecutors have mostly called for suspended prison sentences and up to one year in prison for the Bygmalion founder.
Although he retired from active politics in 2017, he still plays a role behind the scenes. According to French media, he is about to elect a conservative candidate for the French presidential elections next year.
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