Sarkozy on the defensive in uproar over judges

22nd September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 22, 2006 (AFP) - France's interior minister and presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy Friday defended himself against criticism from the country's top court over comments in which he accused judges of being too lenient with delinquents.

PARIS, Sept 22, 2006 (AFP) - France's interior minister and presidential frontrunner Nicolas Sarkozy Friday defended himself against criticism from the country's top court over comments in which he accused judges of being too lenient with delinquents.

"I never undermined judges as a whole," Sarkozy told RTL radio, referring to his accusation that the main court in Seine-Saint-Denis — a crime flashpoint north of Paris where riots erupted last year — of failing to jail enough young offenders.

The comments on Wednesday sparked uproar, and led the head of the Cour de Cassation, France's top court of appeal, Thursday to urge President Jacques Chirac, guarantor of the judiciary's independence, to bring his tough-talking interior minister into line.

Chirac was to meet Friday with Judge Guy Canivet, who said he had requested the audience in order to "expose the seriousness of these repeated attacks on the separation of powers laid out under the Constitution."

The judge received immediate backing from the head of the Paris court of appeal, Renaud Chazal de Mauriac, who accused Sarkozy of "stigmatising the judiciary" with "reductive, shock arguments".

Sarkozy told RTL he was "completely certain of (Chirac's) support" on security policies.

"Who is my judge? The French people," he said. "I think that in a democracy ... it is the judgment of the French people that counts."

Sarkozy has built his image around a tough line on immigration and crime — a leading issue in the 2002 presidential campaign and one again set to top the agenda in next year's contest to succeed Chirac.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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