France’s former president Nicolas Sarkozy has been ordered to testify in the trial of one-time aides and allies who are accused of misusing public money to finance opinion poll contracts, a judge has ruled.
Sarkozy was at the Élysée Palace at the time and has presidential immunity in this specific case but had said he would not appear in court as a witness.
However, the judge said his testimony was necessary “to determine the truth” about the opinion polls commissioned during his time as president and that he was “likely to have (had) an influence on the acts of which the defendants are accused”.
Sarkozy, who separately faces two cases in which he has been sentenced to jail time, has been ordered to be “brought before the judge” to be heard on 2 November.
Five of Sarkozy’s former aides and allies from his time as president between 2007 and 2012 are on trial on accusations of favouritism, conspiracy and misuse of public funds over the awarding of the opinion poll contracts worth €7.5m.
Claude Guéant, Sarkozy’s former chief of staff, and Patrick Buisson, a leading consultant, are among those in the dock.
Prosecutors allege a number of contracts were not put out to a transparent bidding process but were signed directly with the pollsters, in contravention of French laws on public financing.
The legal case was prompted by the anti-corruption association Anticor.
Under the French constitution, the president is covered by immunity for acts during their term in office but does not rule out them appearing as a witness.
Sarkozy’s legal team said it would not comment “at this stage”.
In March, the former president was convicted of “corruption and influence peddling” and given a three-year prison sentence, two years suspended, for trying to bribe a senior judge for information related to one of a number of legal cases involving him.
Sarkozy described the conviction as “shockingly unjust”. In September, a French judge handed Sarkozy a further one-year prison sentence for illegal financing of his failed 2012 re-election bid.
Sarkozy, 66, who has always denied any wrongdoing, has appealed against both sentences, which will be stayed until the end of the appeal process. In any case, he is unlikely to be required to spend time in prison, but will be allowed to serve any sentence with an electronic bracelet.
The trial is expected to last four weeks.