[JURIST] A French court on Monday began the trial of former prime minister Dominique de Villepin [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], accused of slandering businessmen and top politicians including current French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French; JURIST news archive]. De Villepin is accused [AFP report] of having orchestrated the release of a fabricated list of government officials and business people who profited from illegal arms sales, including Sarkozy. Twenty witnesses are expected to testify during the trial, which is likely to run until the end of October. If found guilty, de Villepin could face up to five years in jail and a 45,000 fine.
In November, de Villepin was ordered to stand trial [JURIST report] for "complicity in slanderous denunciation" in connection with a long-running political scandal known as the Clearstream Affair [BBC backgrounder]. In 2006, French authorities searched de Villepin's home and questioned [JURIST reports] him for 17 hours in connection with the scandal. De Villepin's political image was tainted by the allegations as well as by his advance of an unpopular youth labor law [JURIST news archive] during his time as prime minister.