French justice minister put under investigation over alleged conflict of interest

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: French Justice Minister Dupond-Moretti attends a news conference on fight against terrorism at the Elysee Palace in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) -French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti has been put under formal investigation in connection with a judicial investigation into alleged conflicts of interest, his lawyers said on Friday.

They said they will contest the procedure. Olivier Cousi, one of his lawyers, said on BFM TV that Dupond-Moretti had no reason to resign as he is presumed to be innocent.

He will stay in government despite the investigation, Prime Minister Jean Castex said.

Dupond-Moretti, a celebrity lawyer, was named minister by President Emmanuel Macron one year ago with a brief to reform the justice system.

Castex said in a statement that "he renews his confidence in him."

President Emmanuel Macron also backed the minister earlier on Friday. He told reporters during a visit to the Tour de France that Dupond-Moretti "had the same rights as all other citizens," including that to be presumed to be innocent and defend his rights, French media including Le Monde said.

Dupond-Moretti was questioned for hours on Friday by the Cour de Justice de La Republique, a special court that deals with complaints against serving ministers.

In January, the court launched an investigation after an anti-corruption group and three magistrates' unions filed conflict of interest complaints against Dupond-Moretti.

Dupond-Moretti has said the unions were using the allegations of conflict of interest to block his reforms.

Under French law, a formal investigation means there is evidence implicating a suspect, but it does not amount to being charged.

The person can be charged at a later date if further evidence emerges against them, or the investigation can be dropped.

(Reporting by GV De Clercq, Dominique Vidalon, Ingrid Melander; Editing by Christian Lowe and Angus MacSwan)

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