Keyword: examining magistrates

In defence of France's examining magistrates

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Last Friday a French court acquitted former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of aggravated pimping charges, relating to his regular participation in group sex orgies with prostitutes. It followed on the acquittal in May, in an unrelated case, of former conservative minister Éric Woerth of charges that he manipulated senile L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to obtain cash sums, and of influence peddling to obtain a job for his wife in exchange for awarding Bettencourt’s wealth investment manager with the Légion d’honneur. The unsuccessful prosecutions prompted some conservatives, and their allies, to call – and not for the first time - for an end to the French system of examining magistrates, the independent judges who lead major crime investigations carried out in the field by police, and who alone have the ultimate decision on whether to press charges. But in this op-ed article, Mediapart’s legal affairs correspondent Michel Deléan argues that such calls are a recurrent knee-jerk reaction on the part of those whose distaste for investigating judges is rooted in the latter’s independence in face of the rich and powerful, as demonstrated over several decades of French judicial history.   

French presidents come and go, investigating magistrates remain

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When Nicolas Sarkozy descended the central courthouse buildings in Bordeaux on the morning of November 22nd, entering an underground office to be questioned by magistrates leading investigations into the wide-ranging corruption allegations surrounding the affairs of L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, the former French president faced a humbling moment in more ways than one. For not only did he find himself in exactly the same situation as his predecessor, Jacques Chirac, whose corruption-tainted years he had promised to break with, his interrogation over suspected illegal financing of his 2007 election campaign was carried out by members of the French judicial corps known as investigating magistrates which he had, when president, attempted to disband. Michel Deléan reports.