Nicolas Sarkozy's tough-talking offends left

23rd June 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 23 (AFP) - France's high-profile interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy was back in the news again on Thursday after his tough-talking over two recent murder cases prompted accusations of populism from his enemies on the left.

PARIS, June 23 (AFP) - France's high-profile interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy was back in the news again on Thursday after his tough-talking over two recent murder cases prompted accusations of populism from his enemies on the left.

Socialist and Green party politicians reacted with outrage to the minister's remarks made after the weekend murder of an 11 year-old boy in a gangland shooting in a run-down Paris suburb.

Visiting the 'city of 4,000' housing estate in La Courneuve on Monday, Sarkozy said that the "hooligans are going to disappear. I am going to put in the men needed to clean up the (estate)."

In a conversation with the father of Sidi Ahmed Hammache, he promised to "clean the estate up with an industrial power-hose."

The minister's language was described as inapt and provocative by many on the left, and Le Monde newspaper -- close to France's intellectual establishment -- ran a story in its Thursday issue under the headline 'Nicolas Sarkozy moves to the right to attract National Front voters.'

Noel Mamere, a leading member of the Green party, said Sarkozy was "a dangerous man who we have to fight. We have to fight his ideas. He is like a sniffer plane on the look-out for anything that can help his career."

"Using the image of a power-hose is highly significant because a power-hose is potentially very dangerous ... It shows the brutal, blind and dangerous methods which are Mr Sarkozy's," said Arnaud Montebourg of the Socialists.

But speaking before the National Assembly on Wednesday, the minister -- who is seen as a likely candidate for the right in France's 2007 presidential elections - stood by his remarks.

"Seeing the reaction from the left here in parliament, I can understand why the people have deserted you .... It is because you have forgotten the people. You do not speak like them, you do not understand them and you do not draw any conclusions from their daily lives," he said.

The main police union also defended Sarkozy, saying in a statement that it was "not populist to remind the hooligans of the republic that there are simple rules that must be respected."

French police on Thursday arrested two of four men they were hunting after Sunday's murder. The two brothers were picked up in a Paris hotel, but neither is believed to have fired the fatal shot.

The 51 year-old minister returned to the cabinet three weeks ago in the reshuffle that followed the rejection of the EU constitution in the May 29 referendum. He held the same post of interior minister from 2002 to early 2004.

Sarkozy is also head of the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP). The party is officially loyal to President Jacques Chirac but is being transformed by Sarkozy into a vehicle for his own often iconoclastic political views.

There was more controversy -- and not only from the left -- over Sarkozy's comments on the murder of a 37 year-old mother who was shot dead on June 2 while jogging near her home east of Paris.

One of the two suspects, Patrick Gateau, is a convicted murderer who killed in similar circumstances in 1990 and was given conditional release two years ago.

The minister said that the judge who released Gateau should be punished. "I am aware that justice is human ... but just because it is human that does not mean one shouldn't pay when one makes a mistake," he said.

The main magistrates' union USM said that "the minister is surfing as usual on a legitimate emotion in order to find a scapegoat in the person of a professional who was merely applying the laws of the republic."

Another union -- the left-wing Syndicate of the Magistrature-- described Sarkozy's remarks as a "scandalous breach of the principle of the separation of the executive and judicial powers."

Sarkozy's cabinet colleague Justice Minister Pascal Clement was forced to issue a statement saying that "the law was totally respected" in the procedure leading to Gateau's 2003 release.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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