“People are not fooled by anything,” former French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday at the signing of his latest book, two days after being given a one-year prison sentence for illegal campaign financing over his unsuccessful presidential re-election bid in 2012.
The former head of state, who said he would appeal against the sentence, arrived just over 11 a.m. at a Paris bookstore where some 200 persons were waiting for him to autograph his work. Some urged him to “stand firm,” others shouted “be strong” and yet others cried “we’re there for you.”
They included attorney Francis Szpiner, mayor of the 16th Arrondissement, where the book-signing ceremony was held.
“It’s very moving and very reassuring, regarding the state of the country’s morale, the fact that people aren’t fooled,” Mr. Sarkozy said before a host of TV cameras as he began to sign his book, ‘Promenades’ (Editions Herscher)
That was his first public statement since his conviction. In a message on Thursday on social media, he described it as an “injustice” and pledged to “pursue this combat that is so necessary for truth and justice.”
Asked on Saturday about Prime Minister Jean Castex, who on Thursday expressed his “friendship” and “affection,” the former French president (2007-2012) said: “ It has made me very happy. It does not surprise me about him. I’m very sensitive to it. I’ve received thousands and thousands” of messages of support.
Asked by a journalist whether he had received any from President Emmanuel Macron, too, Sarkozy responded: “Ask him. It’s not for me to say.”
On his conviction, he insisted that his opinion was just anecdotal. “What people think is much more serious,” he added. “I’m not necessarily the most objective person” to comment.
In the queue, waiting for his copy of ‘Promenades’ to be signed, 50-plusser Benoît Meurisse felt “we’re quick to accuse people”. His view ? “There have been excesses, that’s clear, but to convict him …! He sees Nicolas Sarkozy above all as a “compass”. “He’s acquired a certain wisdom,” he opines. “He’s become a wise man.”
A bit further down the queue, a group of four law students, two boys and two girls, aged 17 to 20, said they were there because they “dearly love” this “last big figure of the right,” which makes them “a bit nostalgic.”
“We want to take a photo with him because he is a former president, and not just anyone of them,” one of the group, Barthélémy, said, recalling that Sarkozy was “presumed innocent since he has appealed his conviction.
In March Sarkozy became the first former president of the Vth Republic to be sentenced to a jail term – three years, including one that must be served – for corruption and influence peddling in another case, known as that of ”the wiretappings.”
He also appealed against that sentence, thus suspending the enforcement of the conviction.
The Brussels Times