Jospin's former Corsica chief is jailed for arson

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Lionel Jospin's former governor of Corsica was sentenced to jail yesterday for ordering arson attacks, only three months before France's Socialist Prime Minister is expected to stand for the presidency.

Bernard Bonnet had alleged that Mr Jospin, not he, ordered undercover police arson attacks on illegally built cafés on the island in 1999. But no clear link to Mr Jospin emerged during the trial and its impact on his presidential bid is likely to be limited. A court in the French-ruled island's main city of Ajaccio handed Bonnet a three-year sentence, with two suspended.

"I have been convicted for refusing to admit to an order I did not give," Bonnet said. He also alleged that Mr Jospin later used the attacks to justify a controversial policy to hand limited autonomy to Corsica.

Bonnet, 53, insists on his innocence and has hired the prominent lawyer Jacques Verges to lead an appeal.