23 Sep 2009

Former French PM goes on trial

5:45 am on 23 September 2009

Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin has gone on trial in Paris accused of plotting to discredit his old rival, the then interior minister and now president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

It is alleged that Mr de Villepin tried to manipulate a judicial corruption investigation in a bid to smear Mr Sarkozy and harm his chances of winning the presidential election in 2007, the BBC reports.

But speaking outside the court he said he was facing trial only because the president wanted that, and he was confident of being exonerated.

If convicted, he faces a possible fine of about $95,000 and a jail term of up to five years.

The trial in Paris is expected to last for four weeks.

Dubbed the trial of the decade, it features a Who's Who cast of big names in politics, industry and intelligence circles, beginning with Mr Sarkozy, who is a civil plaintiff in the case.