French Judges Strike After Sarkozy Criticizes Handling of Case

French judges demonstrated and closed courthouses across the country to protest criticism from President Nicolas Sarkozy about the way the murder of a teenage girl was handled.

Sarkozy said last week there would be repercussions for the judges and police who hadn’t placed the prime suspect under tighter control after he finished serving a prison term for sexual assault a year ago. He also referred to the suspect as “presumed guilty” even though no trial date has been set.

The protest began today in Nantes, the western city where judges in charge of the murder investigation are based. The suspect is accused of killing an 18-year-old waitress whose dismembered body was found in a pond.

The Socialist Party, France’s largest opposition group, said in a statement it “fully supports the protests of the magistrates and the judicial world who ask to be treated with respect and to receive the means to allow them to function.”

On Feb. 7, Prime Minister Francois Fillon called the magistrates’ reaction “excessive.” Government spokesman Francois Baroin softened the government’s tone today, saying that being a magistrate “is a difficult job” and that it would be up to legal system to decide if faults had been committed in the handling of the suspect.

Sarkozy will be questioned on television by a panel of voters for 90 minutes tonight.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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