Chirac appoints former aide to top justice post

13th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 13, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday named his former adviser on judicial affairs Laurent Le Mesle to be chief state prosecutor in Paris, ignoring charges that the appointment is an insurance against legal action once he leaves office.

PARIS, Sept 13, 2006 (AFP) - French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday named his former adviser on judicial affairs Laurent Le Mesle to be chief state prosecutor in Paris, ignoring charges that the appointment is an insurance against legal action once he leaves office.

Senior magistrates and leaders of the left-wing opposition have condemned the nomination, which gives Le Mesle, 55, the ultimate decision over whether to press charges in politically sensitive cases.

Chirac, 73, who is almost certain to leave office after elections in April, could face investigation over allegations of illegal money-raising during his long term as mayor of Paris. He is currently protected by presidential immunity.

Francois Hollande, first secretary of the Socialist Party, said Le Mesle's appointment was a clear attempt by Chirac "to protect himself from possible legal proceedings that could be brought against him."

"This appointment is shocking," said Dominique Barella, head of the Union of Magistrates. "The problem is Laurent Le Mesle's extreme proximity with the minister of justice, and with the president of the republic."

Le Mesle is currently cabinet director for Justice Minister Pascal Clement, who formally recommended the appointment at Wednesday's meeting of the cabinet.

Government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope hit back against the critics, describing Le Mesle as a "senior magistrate whose sense of ethics and professional competence are universally recognised."

"I am shocked that people can cast doubt over his professional ethics," Cope said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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