PARIS, Jan. 29 (AFP) – French prosecutors will appeal a court decision to acquit former premier Dominique de Villepin of plotting to smear Nicolas Sarkozy to torpedo his presidential bid, state prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin said Friday.
"All has not emerged in this case. There is still scope for a part of the truth to emerge ... I have decided to lodge an appeal," Marin told Europe 1 radio, a day after Villepin was cleared in the high-profile trial.
|Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin speaks to the press as he leaves court in Paris. AFP photo|
Marin said it was "surprising" that the court had cleared Villepin, a former diplomat who speaks flawless English and who had also served as foreign minister.
Villepin told France 2 television late Thursday that he could "not for a moment" imagine an appeal, as the court had left "no doubt" of his innocence.
In an early reaction Friday, he said that Sarkozy "is continuing his vendetta."
The acquittal was a triumph for Villepin in the five-year legal saga and was seen as bolstering his chances of a political comeback as he sets his sights on the 2012 presidential vote.
The complex case centres on a list -- later proved to have been fabricated -- of account holders at the Clearstream financial clearing house who allegedly took bribes from the sale of French warships to Taiwan.
Sarkozy's name was on the list and the French leader alleges the scandal was fabricated to tarnish him ahead of his party's nomination for the 2007 presidential vote, which he won.
Villepin was cleared on all four counts in the case dubbed France's trial of the decade: complicity to slander, to use forgeries, dealing in stolen property and breach of trust.
Three other defendants were convicted: ex-aerospace executive Jean-Louis Gergorin who admitted to leaking the fake list to investigators, Imad Lahoud who confessed to adding Sarkozy's name to the list and accountant Florian Bourges, who obtained data on account holders that were later falsified.
Journalist Denis Robert, who introduced Bourges to Lahoud, was acquitted.