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French judge in Sarkozy investigation recieves bullet, death threats


The row over the decision last week by magistrates to place French former president Nicolas Sarkozy under formal investigation, took a sinister turn on Thursday after the judge at the centre of the ruling received a bullet and death threats in the post.


The letter was sent to Jean-Michel Gentil, the most prominent of the three judges investigating the case, on Wednesday, the magistrate's union SM revealed in a statement published on its website. Gentil’s family are also mentioned the letter.

The threatening letter was accompanied by blank cartridges. One of Gentil's colleagues said the letter, mailed to his Bordeaux office, also contained threats against other magistrates. Police have been called in to investigate.

The SM, in its online statement, also denounced what it called "insulting statements" made by Sarkozy's inner circle following last week’s decision, which it said were designed to undermine the work of the judiciary.

It noted too that Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, had questioned Gentil's impartiality in an interview with the Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

Sarkozy's lawyers are challenging the formal investigation ruling.

Judge Gentil is probing whether ageing L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt was unfairly persuaded by Nicolas Sarkozy to gave thousands of euros to his 2007 election campaign. Medical experts say the mental faculties of the L'Oreal heiress began to deteriorate in 2006.

The decision to place Sarkozy under formal investigation has provoked a furious reaction from his political allies.

Henri Guaino, a former special adviser to Sarkozy and a deputy with his right-wing UMP party, said the decision to place the former president under formal investigation had "dishonoured justice".

Gentil is suing Guiano over the comments.

Sarkozy’s lawyer and close associates maintain that Gentil is politically motivated and out to get Sarkozy.

Five days after signing the column, Gentil ordered police to search Sarkozy's home, office and his secretary's house.

On Wednesday, Socialist Justice Minister Christiane Taubira intervened in the growing row.

She asked the magistrates' governing body, the Conseil Superieur de la Magistrature (CSM), to give its view on what effect the attacks on Gentil were having on the "proper functioning of the judiciary".

Sarkozy himself has repeatedly denied claims he accepted secret donations from Bettencourt, who is the world's richest woman, to fund his successful 2007 campaign.
On his facebook page this week, he vowed to clear his name.

With the right divided by infighting, Sarkozy said earlier this month that, although he did not wish to, he would return to frontline politics if he felt it was necessary, out of a sense of duty to his country.

Sarkozy could be given three years in jail, a fine of 375,000 euros and a five-year ban from public office, if convicted.



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