Celebrity

Lawsuit on French president's affair goes to court

NANTERRE, France (AP) — The former companion of French President Francois Hollande won her invasion of privacy law suit on Thursday against a gossip magazine, while the actress at the center of the presidential break-up took the publication to court, saying its revelations had shattered her life.

The courtroom spotlight shone on the two women with a common link — Hollande — on the same day in the same court house. Neither woman was present. Valerie Trierweiler, the president's long-time companion who had served as first lady until Closer magazine revealed his secret visits to Julie Gayet, won 12,000 euros ($16,500) in damages from the publication with 1,500 euros added each day the award goes unpaid.

She went after Closer for beach photos it published in February of her vacationing after her separation from Hollande. Gayet's case against Closer was directly linked to the January separation of Hollande and Trierweiler. They split after the magazine published photos showing Hollande in a visored helmet being ferried at night to an apartment where the actress waited. The revelations riveted France and drew international headlines.

Gayet is seeking 54,000 euros in damages and legal fees from Closer, plus a ban on publishing the photos. Gayet also wants any guilty verdict published by Closer and cinema-related magazines. The verdict in the case that pits right to privacy against press freedom is due on March 27.

"For Madame Julie Gayet, this article was totally shattering," her lawyer Jean Enocchi, told the court. Since then, he said photographers had pursued her "like game in a hunt," even to the grocery store.

Hollande never denied his relationship with the actress. Gayet, 41, has appeared in public only once since the report, at last week's Cesar cinema awards where she was nominated for best supporting actress but did not win.

Closer's lawyer contended that the article was not devoted to the actress but to the man in her life — Hollande, who "represents France to the entire world (and) is chief of the armed forces." "There are reasons to know about his movements day and night," said the lawyer, Delphine Pando.

Privacy is a well-protected by French law, and heads of state were long considered by journalists as unfair game for disclosures of their personal lives. However, that tradition has fallen away in recent years. The media spotlight shone on President Nicolas Sarkozy, Hollande's predecessor, and his very public divorce and remarriage to Carla Bruni-Sarkozy while in office.

Hollande has not filed any action against Closer.

Elaine Ganley in Paris contributed to this report.

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