WORLD

France’s legal crackdown hits home

PATRICIA TREBLE September 10 2007
WORLD

France’s legal crackdown hits home

PATRICIA TREBLE September 10 2007

France’s legal crackdown hits home

PATRICIA TREBLE

For France’s justice minister, Rachida Dati, who had just successfully fought for a law toughening sentences for repeat offenders, the effect of her political decision struck home last week when a court sentenced her brother Jamal to a year in prison for drug trafficking. The ruling came after prosecutors successfully appealed the original six-month suspended sentence handed down earlier this year, arguing that it was too lenient given this was Dati’s third conviction on drug charges (in 2001 he served 18 months for dealing heroin). Though his lawyer said that his client has kicked his drug habit and “does not want to sully his sister,” he will

appeal the penalty, suggesting that Jamal had been singled out because of his famous sibling. “I cannot explain the flagrant disparity between the decision handed down by the lower court back when Mr. Dati was nobody’s brother and this ruling today,” Frederic Berna complained.

The news for the justice minister got worse the next day when prosecutors announced that another brother, Omar, would face a drug trial in November. Rachida Dati, 41, captured France’s imagination when she was appointed to the Justice portfolio by President Nicolas Sarkozy, becoming the highestranking person of North African origin in France. At least three biographies are coming about her extraordinary life.

Dati is the second of 12 children born to an immigrant Moroccan bricklayer. The early death of her illiterate Algerian mother forced her not only to care for her younger siblings but also to start work at 16 to finance her education. After getting economics and law degrees, she was an accountant and magistrate before joining Sarkozy’s inner circle as a political adviser. Even with her family travails, analysts don’t expect her career to suffer. And Dati has pleaded for understanding: “All families go through difficult times, difficult events, difficult phases.” M