Last updated at 12:35 BST, Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Former French Prime Minister on trial

Summary

21 September 2009

The former French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin goes on trial today on charges of plotting to discredit the then Interior Minister, now President, Nicolas Sarkozy. The hearing is expected to last at least four weeks.

Reporter:
Emma Jane Kirby

French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy and Dominique de Villepin (right)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Dominique de Villepin (right)

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This explosive and incredibly complex trial has all the elements of a blockbuster political thriller, a former Prime Minister from the political elite, accused of conducting a smear campaign against a rival outsider to try to spoil his chances of becoming President.

The case dates back five years, when Nicolas Sarkozy's name appeared on a list sent to the former French Prime Minister of top politicians and businessmen who were wrongly linked to an illegal bank account in Luxembourg. It was alleged those named on the list had received bribes from international arms sales.

When a judge concluded the listings were false, the focus of the investigation quickly became who was behind the spurious allegations. Magistrates want to know whether that person was Dominique De Villepin. If he's found guilty, the former Prime Minister faces up to five years in prison and a heavy fine. He denies any wrongdoing.

Emma Jane Kirby, BBC News, Paris

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Vocabulary

explosive

describes a situation where strong feelings are loudly or violently expressed and there may be unexpected and serious consequences

has all the elements of a blockbuster political thriller

is similar to the plot of a very successful and best-selling novel which has an exciting story, often about crime and politics

the political elite

a group of politicians who hold high power in government

conducting a smear campaign

saying something very unpleasant or damaging about somebody in order to harm their reputation

rival outsider

a person who is competing for the same thing as you but is an unlikely winner and did not belong in the political elite

wrongly linked

said to be connected with something but without any proof or reason

received bribes from international arms sales

taken money from the profits of selling guns and other weapons to other countries

concluded

decided after thinking hard about something and considering all the available information

who was behind the spurious allegations

who was responsible for making the false accusations

denies any wrongdoing

says he has not done anything wrong

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