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CRIME

Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-chief of staff jailed over polling fraud

The former chief of staff of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was handed a new jail sentence Friday, adding to a long list of convictions stemming from the right-winger's 2007-2012 term in office.

Claude Gueant trial in France
Former Interior Minister Claude Gueant arrives for his trial in the case. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Claude Guéant, considered one of Sarkozy’s closest confidants, went on trial in October along with four other aides and allies over accusations they misused public money while ordering public opinion polls worth a combined €7.5 million.

Guéant, who is already in jail over a separate offence, was handed a one-year prison sentence by a court in Paris on Friday, with a requirement to serve a minimum of eight months.

Writer and one-time Sarkozy advisor Patrick Buisson was handed a two-year suspended sentence and a €150,000 fine, while former cabinet director Emmanuelle Mignon was given a six-month suspended sentence.

Former pollster and consultant Pierre Giacometti was also convicted and handed a six-month suspended sentence and a fine of €70,000.

They were accused of ordering polls for Sarkozy in secret and without competition, breaking French laws on public financing that require transparency and competitive bidding.

Former Sarkozy aide Julien Vaulpré was the only one of the five accused to be cleared.

Sarkozy was not targeted directly and had refused to testify as a witness until compelled to do so by a judge.

In September last year, a separate court handed Sarkozy a one-year prison sentence for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid, seven months after he received a jail term for corruption.

The 66-year-old, who is appealing both of those convictions, has also been charged over suspicions he received millions of euros for his 2007 election campaign from the late Libyan dictator Muammar Kadhafi.

Guéant, 77, was jailed in December after he was found to have failed to pay a fine and damages to the state relating to a previous sentence, handed down in 2017, for operating a suspected slush fund.

He immediately announced an appeal against Friday’s sentence.

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POLITICS

French Mediterranean resort’s far-right mayor bans burkinis

The far-right mayor of a resort on the Mediterranean coast of France has banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis in any of the town's swimming pools or beaches - despite previous court rulings saying that this is illegal.

French Mediterranean resort's far-right mayor bans burkinis

Three days after the southeastern city of Grenoble voted to allow swimmers to wear the full-cover swimsuit, the mayor of Fréjus – a member of Marine Le Pen’s far right Rassemblement National party – announced that he had decided to outlaw it.

“I learned with amazement of the authorisation given by the mayor of Grenoble to authorise the burkini in the swimming pools of its commune,” David Rachline wrote in a press release. 

READ ALSO OPINION: If France is to belong in a multicultural world it must accept its Muslim women

In fact, Grenoble updated its rules for municipal swimming pools to allow all bathers to wear any swimsuit – including burkinis – that protected them from the sun. It also permits women to swim topless if they wish and men to wear swim shorts instead of Speedos.

No-one seems to have had an issue with the swim shorts or the topless rule, but the addition of the ‘burkini’ to the list of accepted swimwear caused a major stir, with many lining up to condemn the move – including France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who ordered the local Préfet to review the decision, and later announced that he had asked for a legal challenge to the new regulations.

READ ALSO French government aims to block ‘burkinis’ in swimming pools

Rachline has pre-empted any decision from the government by acting unilaterally, trotting out the familiar refrain from the right that the decision in Grenoble goes against the “fundamental republican principle of secularism”.

“The express authorisation of the burkini is neither more nor less than an electoral provocation with a communitarian spring, implemented by the radical left,” he said.

“I see a culpable complacency with radical Islamism, for electoral purposes and in defiance of national cohesion.

“In order for things to be clearly stated, I have decided, as mayor of Fréjus, guarantor of public hygiene and safety, to modify the corresponding decrees to explicitly specify the ban on the burkini.”

His ban extends to both the town’s municipal swimming pools and its beaches, and he’s not the first southern mayor to attempt to ban burkinis on beaches.

In 2016, Cannes mayor David Lisnard issued an anti-burkini order on the beaches of his town.

The decision, which had also been taken in municipalities such as Villeneuve-Loubet (Alpes-Maritimes), was overturned after an opinion from the Conseil d’Etat, one of France’s highest legal authorities. 

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