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CRIME

Judge in Sarkozy case receives death threat

The row over a corruption probe against Nicolas Sarkozy has escalated after the judge who charged France's former president received a bullet and a death threat in the post.

Judge in Sarkozy case receives death threat
File photo: Phillipe Wojazer/AFP

The letter was sent to Jean-Michel Gentil, the most prominent of three judges investigating the case, the magistrate's union SM revealed in a statement published on its website.

The threatening letter, delivered on Wednesday, was accompanied by blank cartridges.

One of Gentil's colleagues said the letter, mailed to his Bordeaux office, also contained threats against other magistrates. Police had been called in to investigate, the colleague added.

The SM, in its online statement, denounced what it called "insulting statements" made by Sarkozy's inner circle which it said were designed to undermine the work of the judiciary.

It noted too that Sarkozy's own lawyer, Thierry Herzog, had questioned Gentil's impartiality in an interview with Sunday newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

The SM said a number of its members were targeted in the letter. Gentil himself is not a member of the union, one colleague told AFP.

Sarkozy's lawyers are attempting to overturn last week's decision by three examining magistrates to charge him in a case that threatens to destroy his hopes of a political comeback.

Gentil last June put his name to an opinion column signed by dozens of legal professionals in Le Monde newspaper, accusing Sarkozy and his predecessor Jacques Chirac of "wishing to protect the corrupt", Herzog pointed out.

Herzog added that five days after signing the column, Gentil had ordered police to search Sarkozy's home, office and his secretary's house.

The decision to place Sarkozy under formal investigation has provoked a furious reaction from his political allies. Already, Gentil is taking one of his critics to court.

Henri Guaino, a former special adviser to Sarkozy and a deputy with his right-wing UMP party said the magistrate's decision to place the former president under formal investigation had "dishonoured justice".

On Wednesday, Socialist Justice Minister Christiane Taubira intervened in the growing row. She asked the magistrates' governing body, the Conseil superieur de la magistrature (CSM), to give its view on what effect the attacks on Gentil were having on the "proper functioning of the judiciary".

Sarkozy himself has repeatedly denied claims he accepted cash-stuffed envelopes from the world's richest woman Liliane Bettencourt to fund his successful 2007 campaign.

Medical experts say the mental faculties of the L'Oreal heiress began to deteriorate in 2006.

On Monday, Sarkozy used his Facebook page to insist he had not taken advantage of Bettencourt. Describing the charges against him as "unfair and unfounded", he vowed to clear his name.

With the right divided by in-fighting, Sarkozy had, in recent weeks, hinted that he was considering a return to the frontline of French politics.

He suggested in one interview that he could be forced to re-enter the fray out of a sense of duty to his country.

Last week's decision by the judges to put him under formal investigation dealt a blow to those ambitions.

Sarkozy could face up to three years in jail, a fine of €375,000 and a five-year ban from public office if convicted.

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CRIME

Bodies of two babies found in French freezer

Two newborn babies whose corpses were found in a woman's freezer in southern France did not die of natural causes, prosecutors said on Monday.

Bodies of two babies found in French freezer

 “The two children were not stillborn,” Florence Galtier, prosecutor in the southern town of Avignon, told AFP, citing an autopsy.

Their deaths were “not natural in origin”, she added, after the discovery at the home of a 41-year-old woman arrested last Thursday in the southern village of Bedoin.

The woman was charged Friday on suspicion of murder of two minors.

It is not known if she is the mother of the victims, both girls.

The autopsy showed one of the babies had suffered a blow leaving “cranial and intracranial” bruising, believed to be the cause of death.

Galtier said it was not clear if the injuries were the result of violence or a fall, a lack of care or something else.

She added it had also not been established if the girls were twins — or even unrelated.

Police received a telephone tip off from a man whose identity and potential connection to the case are also unclear.

France has known similar cases over the years.

Last March, a woman in her 30s was placed under investigation after two frozen babies were found at her home.

In 2015, five bodies were found in a similar case which saw the mother handed an eight-year jail term.

Another case which went down in French legal annals was that of Veronique Courjault, given an eight-year sentence in 2009 for killing three of her newborn children.

The bodies of two were discovered in a freezer in the home she shared with her husband in South Korea.

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