Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy denounced a smear campaign from Muammar Qaddafi’s relatives after prosecutors charged him with accepting illegal campaign contributions from Qaddafi’s regime in Libya before the 2007 French election.
“There’s no evidence, no document, no photograph, no account, no material evidence: Only hatred, mud, mediocrity and calumny,” Sarkozy said Thursday in an interview on the nightly newscast of TF1, the country’s most watched television channel. “I never betrayed the French’s trust.”
The interview is part of the former president’s effort to fight back in the court of public opinion after days of headlines about the investigation. He was charged Wednesday after being taken into police custody for questioning by a special financial crimes unit. In France, charges are brought during an investigation, before a decision is made on whether the matter will go to trial.
Sarkozy, 63, served as head of state from 2007 to 2012, when he lost a bid for re-election. He placed a distant third in 2016 in the primary to be the candidate of the center-right Republicans in last year’s election. The former president told TF1 that he would not seek to re-enter political life.
Sarkozy has been the target of several criminal investigations since he left office in 2012. In 2014 he was charged with influence-peddling for alleged efforts to have judges keep him informed about the state of play in some of the probes. An investigative judge decided in February 2017 to send him to trial on charges that he used false receipts to illegally exceed campaign-spending limits in his failed 2012 re-election bid. Both cases are still pending.