France's ex-president in first public outing since 'Sarkoleaks'
"Nicolas, we love you!", chanted the supporters of a visibly preoccupied Nicolas Sarkozy, who made his first official outing in France on Monday since he was rocked by potentially damaging leaks and fresh graft allegations.
The former French president appears increasingly threatened by a web of corruption cases that could destroy his chances of a political comeback.
The latest allegation came on Friday when respected daily Le Monde revealed he is suspected of attempting to obtain, via a friendly judge, inside information about ongoing -- and top secret -- proceedings before one of France's highest courts.
This came just days after private conversations and meetings he had while president, and which were secretly recorded by a close aide, were published on news website Atlantico in what has become known as "Sarkoleaks".
But in the southeastern city of Nice, where he travelled to open an Alzheimer's research institute, his popularity appeared undented among a group of around 200 supporters who shouted "Nicolas, we love you", "Nicolas, president" or "Nicolas, come back."
These were hard-pressed to see their idol, who was immediately surrounded by a horde of photographers, cameramen and journalists desperate to hear what he had to say about last week's revelations, irritating supporters during what had initially promised to be a run-of-the-mill inauguration.
"We've been here for hours and we can't even see him," said one woman. "It's all because of the journalists, who are all left-leaning and who talk nonsense about him."
The former president, wearing a dark suit and tie, declined to make any comment on allegations he attempted to pervert the course of justice or on the "Sarkoleaks."
So far, the extracts published online have revealed nothing damaging, but Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni -- who is also heard speaking in the recordings -- have launched legal action to prevent further publication of any other secretly-taped conversations that may exist.
A Paris court is due to announce its verdict on Friday.
© 2014 AFP