The decision followed years of parallel investigations against the former president, and some others continue. Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, will face another trial later this month over allegations that his party falsified bills during his failed 2012 re-election bid.
The charges against Sarkozy on Monday focused on whether he was behind a deal with a magistrate to illegally obtain information on a related inquiry using false names and informal phone lines.
According to the indictment, Sarkozy and his then lawyer and longtime friend Thierry Herzog were trying to bribe Magistrate Gilbert Azibert by offering him a high-ranking position in exchange for information. The incident happened after Sarkozy left the office.
The investigation stems from allegations that Sarkozy and others accepted illegal contributions from CEO Lillian Bettencourt, the late heiress of French cosmetics giant L̵
Sarkozy’s lawyers also denied allegations of corruption and proliferation last year, arguing that since the magistrate did not receive the alleged promised position, it proves the former president’s innocence.
Sarkozy said he had “never committed the slightest act of corruption”.
However, the prosecution claims that there is no doubt that the magistrate provided details illegally. Their evidence is largely based on wiretapped conversations.
Azibert and Herzog were also found guilty on Monday and received sentences similar to Sarkozy’s. Both have appealed, French public television reported.
Prosecutors initially demanded a four-year sentence for Sarkozy, requiring him to serve at least two years. In support of their request, they cited what they described as the damage done by Sarkozy to the French Presidency.
In its ruling, the court agreed that Sarkozy “used his status as a former French president” to make his crimes more serious.
“The severity of the sentence is completely disproportionate and reveals judicial harassment,” wrote Christian Jacob, president of the center-right Republican Party, of which Sarkozy was the leader. Supporters also questioned why Sarkozy was wiretapped after leaving office.
Investigators say these surveillance measures are needed amid growing questions at the time about how Sarkozy funded his campaign in 2007. Sarkozy continues to face accusations that he received illegal payments from the regime of the then Libyan dictator. Moammar Gadhafi before the 2007 elections
Sarkozy is the second former French president in a decade to be convicted. Jacques Chirac, Sarkozy’s predecessor and original patron, was sentenced to two years probation in 2011 for providing non-existent jobs to political allies during the time of the mayor of Paris.