France’s Macron orders review into ‘pressure’ on former rival’s legal case

French President Emmanuel Macron reacts after watching The Red Arrows and La Patrouille de France perform a flypast, at Horse Guards Parade in London, Britain

French President Emmanuel Macron ordered on Friday a top judicial oversight body to review potential pressure on a prosecutor in a case targeting one of his former rivals in the presidential election that brought him to power.

The former head of France’s financial prosecutors, Eliane Houlette, told lawmakers earlier this month that she had come under pressure over her handling of former prime minister Francois Fillon’s case about the misuse of public funds.

Her remarks triggered concerns from conservatives that the legal system may have been biased against Fillon in the case and used for political ends.

“It is therefore essential to erase all doubt about the independence and impartially of the justice system in this case,” Macron’s office said in a statement announcing the review.

Fillon and his wife Penelope went on trial in February over the fake jobs scandal that wrecked his 2017 run for president and opened the Elysee Palace door for Macron.

Since her first remarks to lawmakers, Houlette has since said that Fillon was not put under investigation under pressure from the executive branch and that she had referred to the heavy-handed supervision by superiors in the high-profile case.

Once a front-runner in the election, Fillon’s bid for the presidency fell apart after allegations he paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros for doing little, if any, work as his parliamentary assistant.

A verdict in the case is due to be handed down at the end of the month.

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