J'accuse! Segolene Links Sarkozy 'Clan' with Break-In at Apartment

Article excerpt

A vitriolic political row has exploded in France after the defeated presidential candidate, Segolne Royal, accused President Sarkozy's "clan" of being "linked" to a break-in at her flat.

Mme Royal's words, on the main nightly news programme of the state-owned television channel France 2, came close to a direct accusation of a "Segogate" - a break-in at the home of a senior opposition leader inspired by the President.

Her comments were immediately dismissed by politicians close to M. Sarkozy who said they were the result of a "martyr complex". The Prime Minister, Franois Fillon, said it was "absolutely shameful" to make accusations against the President, "without any shred of proof".

However, senior opposition figures sprang to Mme Royal's defence. Jean-Marc Ayrault, the leader of the Socialist group in the lower house of parliament, said that President Sarkozy's 14 months in power had created a "climate" which "recalled the most unpleasant periods of French political history". Once such a climate is created, he said, "anything can happen".

Mme Royal's apartment, in the quiet suburb of Boulogne- Billancourt, just outside Paris, was broken into just under two weeks ago. Her flat was also burgled during her campaign to become the first woman president of France in the spring of last year. On both occasions, nothing appeared to have been stolen.

On France 2's nightly news programme on Tuesday night, Mme Royal said she believed that there was a "link" between the break-in on 27 June and her accusation the previous day that the President's wealthy friends were mounting a "take-over" of France. This followed a decision by M. Sarkozy to ban advertising from state-owned television - potentially increasing by $450m (360m) annually the revenue of commercial television channels owned, or controlled, by his close friends.

"I observe that on the day after I said that it was time to halt the Sarkozy clan's take-over of France, my home was ransacked," Mme Royal told astonished viewers. "I make a link between the two events." When was asked if she was "making an accusation" against the "forces in power", she replied: "It's a bizarre coincidence... This is the second time my apartment has been ransacked.

"I am the only politician to denounce strongly the moves being made to undermine the state television services... There is a kidnapping going on, a robbery of the advertising revenue on France 2 and France 3 to enrich M. Sarkozy's friends."

Mme Royal insisted on several occasions that the break-in should not be described as a "robbery" but as a "ransacking" intended to intimidate her.

M. Sarkozy's political allies queued up yesterday to dismiss the allegations as a symptom of "instability" or a need to draw attention. …