A court in France has sentenced the nation's former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to three years in jail for trying to bribe a magistrate - though he is unlikely to actually spend any of that time in prison.

Mr Sarkozy was convicted on charges of influence peddling and corruption for offering to help the magistrate, Gilbert Azibert, get a plum job in Monaco in return for confidential information about an inquiry into his own presidential campaign's finances.

The key evidence in the case was a series of phone conversations in 2014 between Mr Sarkozy and his lawyer, co-defendant Thierry Herzog, which were recorded by police.

At the time, investigators were examining claims that Mr Sarkozy had illegally coerced L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt into donating to his 2007 presidential campaign. That investigation ended when prosecutors concluded they lacked evidence.

In her ruling, Judge Christine Mee suspended two of the three years and said Mr Sarkozy could serve the remaining one under house arrest with an electronic tag.

Under French law, he is not required to serve any sentence at all until he has exhausted the appeals process.

Nevertheless, Mr Sarkozy's sentence is unprecedented among modern French presidents. His predecessor, Jacques Chirac, got a two-year suspended sentence in 2011 on similar corruption charges.

The last French head of state to be sentenced to prison was Philippe Petain, who was found guilty of treason for collaborating with the Nazis.

Mr Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni, posted a message of support for him on Instagram after the sentence was announced today.

"What insane tenacity, my love. The fight continues, the truth will emerge," she said.

Mr Sarkozy will face court again in just over a fortnight on separate charges. He stands accused of violating campaign finance regulations during his bid for re-election in 2012, which ended in defeat.

His legal troubles come at a time when he was reportedly plotting a political comeback.

The French left and right are both in disarray at the moment, and next year's presidential election is shaping up as a repeat of the 2017 contest, which came down to current President Emmanuel Macron and right-wing leader Marine Le Pen.

Francois Fillon, who led Mr Sarkozy's Les Republicains party that year, has since been sentenced to five years in prison (three of them suspended) and barred from running for office for a decade after misusing public funds.

Originally published as Former French president sentenced to jail


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