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CRIME

Ex French president Sarkozy loses bid to have Gaddafi probe halted

French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy has lost his bid to have the country's supreme court throw out an inquiry into suspected illegal financing of his 2007 election campaign with funds from late Libyan dictator Muammar Gadaffi.

Nicolas Sarkozy leaves a Paris court
Nicolas Sarkozy leaves a Paris court. Photo: Bertrand Guay/AFP

The legal ruling by the Court of Cassation, published on Wednesday, makes a new trial likely for Sarkozy, a former rightwing heavyweight who has faced a litany of legal woes since leaving office in 2012.

In March, he became France’s first postwar president to be sentenced to jail relating to his attempts to secure confidential information from a judge in return for the promise of a plum retirement job.

And in September, judges gave him a one-year prison sentence for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid, after his campaign team spent nearly double the legal limit.

Sarkozy, 66, has appealed both rulings, and if they are upheld is unlikely to serve any time behind bars under French sentencing laws – though he could have to wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

In the Libya case, investigators allege he and his associates received tens of millions of euros from Gaddafi’s regime to help finance his election bid.

One of the associates, the French-Lebanese businessman Ziad Takieddine, has said he delivered suitcases carrying a total of €5 million from the Libyan regime to Sarkozy’s chief of staff in 2006 and 2007 – though he later withdrew the claim.

While in office Sarkozy became one of Gaddafi’s closest allies in the West, but in 2011 he was a driving force in the international military invention that drove the Libyan strongman from power.

Sarkozy has denied any wrongdoing.

“I can only regret this ruling, which nonetheless changes nothing with regards to the facts,” his lawyer Emmanuel Piwnica said Wednesday.

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POLITICS

‘Public opinion is ready’ – These French senators want to legalise marijuana

A group of 31 French senators of the Socialist, Green and Republican parties have come together to write a statement calling for the legalisation of marijuana in France.

'Public opinion is ready' - These French senators want to legalise marijuana

France is known for having some of the strictest laws regarding marijuana consumption in Europe – while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest rates of cannabis usage in the EU. 

A group of French senators – coming from the Socialist, Green and centre-right Les Républicains parties – are trying to change those laws, and have come together to call for marijuana to be legalised in France.

The group of 31 co-signed a statement published in French newspaper, Le Monde, on Wednesday, August 10th.

In the statement, the senators promised to launch a ‘consultation process’ to submit a bill to legalise marijuana “in the coming months.”

The proposition was headed by Senator Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, a member of the Socialist Party, and gained support from the party’s leader, Patrick Kanner.

READ MORE: The long and winding road towards changing France’s cannabis laws

A report by the Assemblé Nationale, which was published in May 2021, estimated that nearly 18 million French people (more than 25 percent of the population) had already consumed marijuana, and that an additional 1.5 million consume it regularly.

This, coupled with the 2019 finding that nearly one in two French people (45 percent) said they were in favour of legalisation, according to a survey by the French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), helped strengthen the senators’ position.

“Public opinion is ready, the legislature must act,” they wrote.

Their senators argue that legalising marijuana in France will allow the authorities to better protect French citizens, saying that legalising would not require “minimising the health impacts of cannabis consumption” but rather would allow regulation similar to “public policies for tobacco, alcohol or gambling.”

For the group of 31 senators, the benefits of legalisation would involve a better control over the “health quality of products consumed,” “curbing trafficking in disadvantaged areas,” developing large-scale prevention plans,” and finally the taxation of cannabis products and redirection of law enforcement resources. Decriminalisation – in their opinion – would not be sufficient as this would simply “deprive authorities the ability to act,” in contrast to legalisation. 

READ MORE: Is France moving towards legalising cannabis for recreational purposes?

“In the long term, new tax revenues would be generated from the cannabis trade and from savings in the justice and police sectors”, which would make it possible to mobilize “significant resources for prevention as well as for rehabilitation and economic development,” wrote the senators.

In France, the conversation around cannabis has evolved in recent years – former Health Minister (and current government spokesman) Olivier Véran said to France Bleu in September 2021 that “countries that have gone towards legalisation have results better than those of France in the last ten years,” adding that he was interested in the potential therapeutic use of cannabis.

Currently, the drug is illegal in France. Previously, it fell under a 1970-law of illicit drug use, making it punishable with up to a year prison and an up to €3,750 fine.

However, in 2020, the government softened the penalties, making it possible for those caught consuming it to opt for an on-the-spot fine of €200.

There is also an ongoing trial involving 3,000 patients to test the impacts of medical marijuana usage, particularly with regard to pain relief. 

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