Hollande accused of interfering with partner's defamation case

French President's letter defending Valerie Trierweiler in 'love triangle' law suit sparks fury

Valérie Trierweiler, the journalist partner of the French President, François Hollande, was back in the headlines today when a libel suit she launched against two unofficial biographers backfired with the revelation that her husband and his Interior Minister had written letters to the court supporting her case.

The leaked letters raised questions about the independence of the judiciary and the separation of powers in the Republic. Mr Hollande had pledged before his election last May that, as President, he would "allow justice to function in an independent way".

It also played into the hands of the right-wing opposition party, the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP). Its leader, Jean-François Copé, asked how Mr Hollande could have given "so many moral lessons to [former President Nicolas] Sarkozy while not applying them to himself."

Ms Trierweiler, 47, has launched her libel action against two journalists who in September published a biography entitled La Frondeuse (The Troublemaker). She accuses them of invading her privacy and is seeking €80,000 (£64,000) damages.

The book notably alleged that she was in a love triangle nine years ago with a prominent right-wing politician, the former economic recovery minister Patrick Devedjian, and with Mr Hollande, the Socialist party leader, when all three were married or in long-term relationships. Mr Devedjian is also suing the book's authors.

Mr Hollande's letter was handwritten and on plain notepaper. In it, the President dismissed as "inventions" an allegation that he wrote to the UMP grandee Edouard Balladur in 1995, suggesting a rapprochement with the Socialists. The letter from the Interior Minister, Manuel Valls, was on paper with a ministry letterhead. Sources close to the President denied that Mr Hollande's intervention was a form of "pressure" on the court, which is to rule on the case on 28 January. They told the AFP news agency that it was a "personal testimony" as a private citizen in the case concerning his partner.

Ms Trierweiler has been constantly in the media since Mr Hollande became President last year, and has jealously protected her privacy. She has remained on the staff of Paris-Match, although no longer as a political journalist. Colleagues suggest that there is unease at her issuing of privacy lawsuits since becoming First Lady, particularly given her former role on the the weekly magazine, where she is credited with being the first to develop celebrity coverage in France. Her role as First Lady, or as "nothing more than the President's mistress", remains unclear. Recent media coverage has highlighted her charity work.

At the weekend she got into more hot water while at a cultural event in her home town of Angers, where she received a letter for Mr Hollande from three activists opposed to the building of an airport in Nantes.

Ms Trierweiler was accused of undermining the authority of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault by meeting protesters opposed to plans for the new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a pet project of the former mayor of Nantes.

Mr Hollande has become used to fielding questions from journalists about his partner since June, when he was embarrassed by a tweet she sent in support of a rival of Mr Hollande's former partner, Ségolène Royal.

Ms Royal, a Socialist party heavyweight, is also the mother of Mr Hollande's four children.

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