Investigating magistrate Philippe Courroye is in the bizarre position of becoming a reluctant defence witness in a gun-running trial he helped to bring to court after a decade of delay. It is alleged that he actively encouraged Yves Bertrand, former head of the French secret service, to undertake illegal phone taps that revealed compromising information about a series of French politicians, including Sarkozy in his days as home affairs minister.
This may explain why the French government, by means of a letter from Minister of Defence Hervé Morin, seems to be doing its best to scupper the trial altogether. Morin suggested that no offence had been committed under French law, as all the acts complained of took place abroad.
Yves Bertrand and Hervé Morin
The accused include another home affairs minister Charles Pasqua and presidential adviser Jacques Attali. They are said to have conspired to smuggle arms to Angola during the 1993 civil war in breach of a United Nations arms embargo.
Further pressure has been heaped on the prosecution by the Angolan government, which is threatening to withdraw French oil concessions. It will be a major surprise if the trial, scheduled to start next year, actually goes ahead.