Caroline Wyatt | Paris | Nov 15
BBC – In France, 12 people have gone on trial for running a phone-tapping operation used by the late President Francois Mitterrand to monitor his opponents.
The defendants were almost all civil servants and they include current Renault chief Louis Schweitzer.
The case has taken 22 years to come to court, because of state secrecy orders that prevented the judge gaining access to key documents.
It has been described as France’s own Watergate scandal.
All the defendants in the Paris trial are accused of breach of privacy and face a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a fine.
‘Massive eavesdropping unit’
Memories of the events being recalled in court may be hazy more than two decades later, but the charges are all too clear.
They are a reminder to many of one of the biggest scandals in French post-war history, and further evidence for some of the corruption and the arrogance of Mr Mitterrand’s Socialist government.
The late French president set up a specialist anti-terrorist unit, after the 1982 bombing of a Jewish area in central Paris.
Somehow, the unit turned into a massive private eavesdropping exercise, taping thousands of hours of conversations.
It reported directly to the president, by-passing the French intelligence services.
Journalists, lawyers, businessmen and even the actress and model Carole Bouquet were among those whose private phone conversations were tapped over long periods of time.
Most of the 12 defendants in this three-month trial will argue that they were only carrying out orders from above.
note: I’ll try to find a better article on the subject. Le Monde (one of the prime targets of the operation) has a whole bunch of stuff but it’s too detailed for translation purposes, still if you read French and for some strange reason don’t read Le Monde regularly I’d suggest going over thre
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