French court confirms Villepin acquittal
A French appeals court on Wednesday confirmed the acquittal of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin over a political scandal in which he was accused of smearing President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The public prosecutor had called at the end of trial hearings in May for the suave potential candidate in next year's presidential election and bitter Sarkozy rival to be given a 15-month suspended sentence.
The case centred on a fake list of names that falsely implicated Sarkozy in kickbacks on arms deals with Taiwan, with Sarkzoy accusing Villepin of causing his name to be on the list.
The trial focussed on a web of murky claims and counter-claims about who in European defence company EADS, owner of Airbus, was responsible for the fake list, and whether Villepin could have prevented it.
Villepin, a diplomat best remembered for leading the charge against the Iraq war at the United Nations in 2003, was cleared of all charges in a first trial that ended last year.
Public prosecutors appealed but Sarkozy did not take part in the appeal.
Two co-accused -- former deputy boss of aerospace giant EADS Jean-Louis Gergorin and former EADS employee and mathematician Imad Lahoud -- were jailed for six and 18 months respectively and fined 40,000 euros.
© 2011 AFP