Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy vowed to clear his name on Thursday after being charged for financing his 2007 election campaign with money from late Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi, but said he was "finished" in politics.
"It might take me one, two, 10 years but I'll smash this group (of accusers) and will restore my honour," he said during an emotion-charged prime-time television interview. "I don't plan to give an inch!"
Having already stepped back from a front-line public role in 2016 after he failed with a bid to run again for president, Sarkozy added that for himself "politics is finished".
In a half-hour performance that saw him shake with indignation at times, Sarkozy frequently referred to his accusers from Kadhafi's regime as "sinister", "liars" and a "group of killers".
"If you had told me that I would have problems because of Kadhafi, I would have said: 'What are you smoking?'" Sarkozy said at one point, claiming that investigators had not found a single piece of evidence against him.
"I am hurt deeply as a person, not for me, for my country," Sarkozy said in his concluding remarks. "You can't drag people into the mud because some killers wanted to do it. I can't let them get away with it."
Sarkozy, who served as president from 2007 to 2012, has been charged with corruption, illegal campaign financing and concealment of Libyan public money, a judiciary source told AFP.
Under the French system, charging a suspect means that investigators believe they have strong and corroborated evidence against them, but the investigation will continue.
Investigating magistrates, who have been looking into alleged Libyan financing for five years, will decide at the next stage of the probe whether to recommend Sarkozy goes to trial.