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France

Hollande aide clings on to job as lawyer blames ‘political police’ for Fillon row

François Fillon when he was prime minister with Jean-Pierre Jouyet
François Fillon when he was prime minister with Jean-Pierre Jouyet AFP

Top presidential aide Jean-Pierre Jouyet will not be fired, French government ministers said on Wednesday as former prime minister François Fillon tried to force reporters to prove their claim that he tried to interfere in legal action against ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy. Fillon’s laywer accused them of story being “auxiliaries to political police”.

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Jouyet “is the secretary-general of the Elysée [presidential palace], he’s staying there and he was there this morning”, government spokesperson Stéphan Le Foll said on Wednesday.

Environment Minister Ségolène Royal told reporters that “of course” Jouyet still enjoyed President François Hollande’s support.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

Jouyet has given contradictory accounts of what happened at a lunch with journalists Fabrice Lhomme and Gérard Davet and his latest version has been contradicted by the only other person present.

Antoine Gosset-Granville, who worked for Fillon when he was prime minister and for Jouyet in another government function, on Tuesday said that “at no point” did Fillon ask Jouyet to intervene in the case.

In their book Sarko s’est tuer, Lhomme and Davet claim that Fillon urged Jouyet to speed up legal action on alleged election expenses fraud against Sarkozy.

When Jouyet denied their story was true, they claimed to have a recording of him confirming it, leading him to retract his denial.

Lhomme and Davet have refused to make the recording public and Fillon’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Versini-Campichi, on Wednesday filed an injunction to have it made available to his client and the court agreed to rule on the case on Friday.

Earlier in the day Versini-Campichi hinted that the two journalists were conducting a politically motivated vendetta against Sarkozy and that his client’s reputation was collateral damage.

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“I’m not convinced that the two journalists are ordinary investigators,” he told Europe 1 radio. “They behave like auxiliaries or back-up for a political police. They’ve had the same subject for several years and that is that anything goes when it comes to attacking Monsieur Sarkozy.”

The reporters are “at the disposition” of those who are out to get the former president, he claimed.

Sarkozy himself has accused Hollande of running a secret dirty-tricks department, as several of his predecessors, including Socialist François Mitterrand and right-winger Jacques Chirac, are believed to have done.

It is “out of the question” that Lhomme and Davet will hand over the tape, their lawyer, François Saint-Pierre, said on Tuesday, challenging Fillon to sue them and making it clear that they would cite press freedom in their defence.

Several right-wing MPs called for Jouyet’s head on Tuesday and on Wednesday Hervé Mariton, who is standing for the leadership of the UMP party, judged that “he can’t stay” in his job.

Hard-left MEP Jean-Luc Mélenchon said that it is Hollande who should be “judged” for employing an official who had served under Sarkozy, one of the “indestructible” bureaucrats who “give the orders”, regardless of which government has been elected.
 

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