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A vehicle with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy aboard arrives at the anti-corruption office of the French police on July 1 near Paris. / AFP

Former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy has been detained by police for questioning over allegations related to a corruption probe.

Sarkozy's detention - unprecedented for a former president in France - is linked to an investigation into whether he sought inside information from a judge who was looking into illegal campaign donations. Sarkozy was president from 2007 to 2012.

Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, was also held for questioning. Both dispute the allegations and have denied any wrongdoing.

The pair, along with a judge, Gilbert Azibert, are being held in Nanterre, which is a suburb of Paris. It was not immediately clear when they would be released and on what terms.

However, investigators are said to be basing their suspicions at least in part on tapped phone conversations between Sarkozy and his lawyer, according to multiple media reports in the French press.

Meanwhile, in a show of support, Christian Estrosi, a lawmaker from Sarkozy's conservative UMP party, tweeted: "They have never imposed such treatment on a former president, with such a surge of hate."

Former French president Jacques Chirac was convicted in a corruption investigation in 2011 after he left office, but when he was questioned he was not held in police custody. Earlier charges raised against Sarkozy that he took campaign donations from L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt were subsequently dropped.

"The justice system is investigating and (it) should carry out the task to the end," said Stephanie Le Foll, a French government spokesman. "Sarkozy is a citizen answerable to justice like any other."

The development nonetheless comes at an awkward time for Sarkozy, who is mulling a challenge to the French presidency in 2017.

Still, Thomas Guenole, a political scientist, said it was too early to draw conclusions about what the case might mean for Sarkozy's ambitions for a political comeback.

"Nicolas Sarkozy has often been pronounced politically dead over the last two years because he was implicated in political-judicial affairs. ? And he has always emerged," Guenole said.

Contributing: Associated Press



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: France's ex-president Sarkozy held in corruption probe

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