In France, the Minister of Justice Éric Dupond-Moretti in the dock

This is unprecedented in France. Since Monday and for 10 days, the current Minister of Justice has been sitting in the dock of a court, accused of conflicts of interest in the context of his functions.

“For me and for my loved ones, this trial is an infamy,” launched Éric Dupont-Moretti during the first hearing before the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), the only one authorized to judge members of the government for acts committed in the exercise of their functions.

Éric Dupond-Moretti, 62 years old, including 36 as a lawyer, appears for “illegal taking of interests”. He is suspected of having used his position as minister to settle scores with four magistrates with whom he had disagreements when he was a lawyer.

The minister, despite his legal troubles, retained the confidence of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron. Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne expressed “all her confidence” in him on Monday, referring to the “presumption of innocence”.

During the hearing, he will remain minister as if nothing had happened, or almost: measures will be taken “to ensure the proper functioning of public authorities and the continuity of the State”, specified a government source. .

If he is found guilty of “illegal taking of interests”, he faces five years of imprisonment, a fine of 500,000 euros and an additional penalty of ineligibility and prohibition from holding public office. His departure from the government, where he was appointed in July 2020, would be inevitable.

“Illegitimacy trial”

“You said you were waiting calmly to explain yourself,” said the president of the CJR, Dominique Pauthe, as he finished reading the report on the facts. “I believe, Mr. Dupond-Moretti, that the time has come. »

“Until these last hours, I did not defend myself,” replied the Minister of Justice, “basically, so as not to have my ministry and my action tarnished.” “I intend to defend myself with dignity, completely, but I intend to defend myself firmly. »

“Mr. President, this trial in my eyes is first and foremost a trial of illegitimacy,” continued Éric Dupond-Moretti, recalling that the magistrates’ unions, at the origin of the complaint filed against him, had qualified his appointment to the Ministry of Justice of “declaration of war”.

While voices were raised in the opposition to criticize the minister’s retention in his post during this trial, Rémy Heitz, who brought the accusation, addressed the judges (three professional magistrates and twelve parliamentarians from all sides) , to remind us that this very unusual trial was “not of course without difficulty”.

“For the witnesses who will appear, most of them magistrates, including certain members of the public prosecutor and whose career depends on the very person you are preparing to judge,” specified the attorney general at the Court of Cassation, asking the judges a “permanent concern for objectivity and impartiality”.

A sort of “pre-indictment”, “very useless”, retorted Éric Dupond-Moretti’s lawyer, Me Jacqueline Laffont, asking judges to be content with “the facts and the law”.

Investigations and wiretapping

The case begins at the end of June 2020, on the sidelines of the so-called “Paul Bismuth” corruption affair targeting former president Nicolas Sarkozy, when the weekly Point reveals that the National Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF) had the telephone bills of several lawyers, including Éric Dupond-Moretti, examined to ferret out a possible mole who would have informed Mr. Sarkozy and his lawyer Thierry Herzog that they were being tapped.

Éric Dupond-Moretti, very close friend of Me Herzog denounces a “barbouzard investigation” and files a complaint.

The Minister of Justice at the time, Nicole Belloubet, had requested an “operational inspection”. Having become a minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti then ordered an administrative investigation against two magistrates and the head of the PNF to determine possible individual faults.

During the investigation, Éric Dupond-Moretti, who has always maintained rough relations with the magistrates, denounced a “biased” instruction aimed at “sullying the reputation of a former lawyer” and fueling his trial into “illegitimacy in occupying the functions of Keeper of the Seals”.

The interrogation of the ex-lawyer, a formidable litigant with some 140 acquittals which earned him the nickname “Acquittator”, is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Around twenty witnesses will be called to the stand during the trial, scheduled until November 16. Among them, the former Minister of Justice Nicole Belloubet, present in the room at the opening of the hearing, the former Prime Minister Jean Castex and the former Attorney General at the Court of Cassation, François Molins.

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