Hollande replacements denounced as start of ‘witch hunt’

The government said in a statement that Bernard Squarcini, the head of the DCRI intelligence service, Frederic Pechenard, director general of the French national police, and Paris police prefect Michel Gaudin had been replaced.

Patrick Calvar will take over the DCRI, Claude Baland as chief of the national police and Bernard Boucault as Paris police prefect.

During the campaign ahead of his May 6 election win, Hollande had said some senior security officials in France were too close to Sarkozy, denouncing what he called a “UMP state”, after rival Nicolas Sarkozy’s political party.

In a televised interview on Tuesday, Hollande said that by clearing out top officials his goal was to ensure police services were non-partisan.

“They will be replaced … by top quality senior officials because I want to ensure public security and I want the police respected as an institution,” he said.

Squarcini has been charged with having obtained a journalist’s phone logs as part of an allegedly illegal police investigation to identify a source leaking information on a campaign financing scandal involving Sarkozy.

The leader of the UMP, Jean-François Cope, denounced the replacements on Wednesday as the start of a “witch hunt”. – Sapa-AFP

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