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In a TV interview, Nicolas Sarkozy has said the French justice system is being used for “political ends” after he was placed under formal investigation for influence peddling.

The former president denied committing any unlawful act.

Nicolas Sarkozy said the “grotesque” case against him had been intended to humiliate him and harm his reputation.

It is alleged Nicolas Sarkozy sought insider information from a judge about an inquiry into illegal campaign funding.

Nicolas Sarkozy was detained on Tuesday for questioning – the first time a former French head of state has been held in police custody.

His clear accusation is that left-wing elements in the judiciary are trying to bring him down and prevent his return to politics.

Opponents of Nicolas Sarkozy say his counter-attack is typical of the man and a bid to deflect attention away from the allegations.

Nicolas Sarkozy gave his first interview after being placed under formal investigation for influence peddling

Nicolas Sarkozy gave his first interview after being placed under formal investigation for influence peddling

The interview, which was recorded for TF1 television and Europe 1 radio, was broadcast on Wednesday evening.

Nicolas Sarkozy said: “The situation is sufficiently serious to tell the French people where we stand on the political exploitation of part of the legal system today.

“I say to all those who are listening or watching that I have never betrayed them and have never committed an act against the Republic’s principles and the rule of law.”

Nicolas Sarkozy said he is “deeply shocked” by the investigation and he accused the Syndicat de la Magistrature trade union of seeking to destroy him.

“Everything is being done to give me a reputation that is not true,” he said.

Nicolas Sarkozy added: “In our country, which is the country of human rights and the rule of law, there are things that are being organized.

“The French need to know what they are and, in conscience and freedom, judge what to make of it.”

He also expressed his anger at the way he was summoned, saying there “was an intention to humiliate” him with the formal detention.

Earlier, France’s PM Manuel Valls insisted the investigation was being carried out independently of the Socialist government.

Talking to French TV, he said “no one is above the law” but added that it was important to remember “there is the presumption of innocence.”

Nicolas Sarkozy was released from custody around midnight after appearing in court in Paris.

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