Nicolas Sarkozy may have crossed the line in the continuing trial of his political foe Dominique de Villepin, the former French prime minister accused of waging a smear campaign against him in 2004. During a TV interview in New York, Sarkozy called Villepin and his co-defendants "the guilty parties"—reinforcing the widely held view that the trial is an exercise in score-settling. Villepin's lawyer called the president's comments "a scandalous violation of fundamental principles" and is filing a criminal complaint.
Villepin and four others are on trial for their role in the so-called Clearstream Affair, which began when Sarkozy's name was circulated on a list—later proven counterfeit—of figures said to be getting kickbacks from arms deals. As president, Sarkozy is immune from prosecution, but that hasn't stopped him from sending in his own lawyers to grill Villepin.This "situation should not be accepted in a republic that has principles," said one leading politician.