- Reuters, ParisReuse content
President Jacques Chirac, marking the centennial of Emile Zola's "J'Accuse" newspaper article, said the wrongful accusations against the Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus were a dark spot on French history. "It was a dark spot, unworthy of our country and its history, a colossal judicial error," he wrote in a letter to descendants of Zola and Dreyfus. Mr Chirac's message kicked off a series of events to mark the 13 January 1897 publication of "J'Accuse" by the newspaper L'Aurore in defence of Dreyfus, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of spying for Germany. His innocence had been established a year before by an army intelligence chief colonel, Georges Piquart, who had discovered that the real culprit was a Major Ferdinand Esterhazy. Dreyfus was the first Jew to serve on the French General Staff and the affair was strongly tainted with anti- Semitism.