French judge to rule on Gayet privacy breach

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Nanterre, France -

A French court was to decide on Tuesday whether actress Julie Gayet, whose affair with President Francois Hollande made waves worldwide, had her privacy breached by a photographer who snapped her in her car.

The charges relate to a picture of the 41-year-old actress behind the wheel of her car that French glossy magazine Closer published in January, a week after breaking the news of Gayet's affair with Hollande.

Under French law, the inside of a car is considered to be a private space. The accompanying caption read: “It's in her white Citroen that Julie Gayet meets the president.”

Photographer Laurent Viers appeared in court on July 1 on charges of breach of privacy, which carry a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of up to 45 000 euros, but denies taking the photograph.

Gayet has identified Viers, 47, and his mobile phone records show he was in the area where the snap was taken.

Viers has said he was merely tracking her “to have some information”. Gayet, meanwhile, told prosecutors she “just could not shake him off”.

Closer set off a political earthquake in January by publishing photographs purportedly showing Hollande arriving for trysts on a scooter at an apartment near the Elysee presidential palace.

It claimed the affair, which led to Hollande's split from long-time partner Valerie Trierweiler, began two years ago.

Viers' brother-in-law Sebastien Valiela, who took snaps of Gayet and Hollande together in front of a building near the Elysee has also denied photographing the actress in her Citroen in Paris's upscale Left Bank area.

“I would not take a legal risk for something like that,” he said.

The court in the western Paris suburb of Nanterre will also rule if Carmine Perna, director general of Closer publisher Mondadori Magazines France, and the magazine's editor-in-chief Laurence Pieau, should be fined.

Pieau had earlier told the court that “for me, a car is not a private space”.

Gayet's lawyer Jean Ennochi is demanding a symbolic fine of one euro, arguing his client was hounded and her private life spilled out into the open.

In March, a French court ordered Closer to pay the actress 15 000 euros in damages for breach of privacy, short of the 50 000 euros Gayet demanded when she filed the suit. - Sapa-AFP

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