French Justice Minister Taubira accused of political interference
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French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has been accused of trying to squeeze out a top Paris prosecutor on political grounds as she boasts about her plan to bring increase the neutrality of France's legal system. The right-wing opposition claims the affair is a major scandal.
In a letter published in the right-wing paper Le Figaro, Paris public prosecutor François Falletti claims that he was summoned to the justice ministry, where two of Taubira's closest associates urged him to take a post at the appeals court, formally a promotion but a job with less power and fewer perks than his present one.
The minister wanted to replace him with somebody of her "political persuasion", they told him.
He declined and the story was published in Wednesday's edition of the satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné.
Falletti, who is blind, says that his wife, who accompanies him everywhere, was told to wait outside during the interview.
In his letter to Taubira, reproduced in Le Figaro, Falletti expressed his "astonishment" of the minister's "mistrust" and accused her of wanting to "evict" him from his job.
"This is a state scandal!" thundered Jean-François Copé of the right-wing UMP, while the leader of the party's parliamentary group, Christian Jacob declared it "absolutely scandalous".
Taubira on Wednesday evening vigorously defended herself in the National Assembly, claiming that the interview was "completely ordinary".
Communist Party leader Pierre Laurent came to her defence, claiming the criticisms were part of a political campaign against her.
Like all France's top prosecutors, Falletti, who is reportedly regarded as competent but slow to make decisions, was given his job by the cabinet, in his case that of former president Nicolas Sarkozy, and makes no secret of his conservative politics.
It is unclear why Taubira would have specially wanted to get rid of him although she has recently created a new financial prosecutor's post for the capital and the Mediapart website points out tha Falletti would decide the workload for that job.
Magistrates' unions have also weighed in, one describing the incident as "a sign of contempt for the independence of the magistrature" and another, more sympathetic to Taubira, calling it "at least clumsiness, at worst pressure".
But they are sceptical about the right's indignation.
"This is a farce," Christophe Regnard of the biggest, USM, told Mediapart. "Under the previous majority four prosecutors - from Agen, Nancy, Riom and Mr Felletti's predecessor - were fired in the same way."
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