Judges protest closes French courts

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Magistrates in France are angry about Nicolas Sarkozy's comments on a high-profile case

Protesting judges and magistrates have shut down almost all of France’s courthouses in a stand-off with President Nicolas Sarkozy and the government.

Most courts have been hearing only urgent cases for days.

A protest march by judges is planned later in the western city of Nantes.

Magistrates are angry about Mr Sarkozy’s comments on a high-profile case.

After a young waitress disappeared and parts of her body were found in a pond, Mr Sarkozy branded the suspect in the case “presumed guilty” even before trial.

Mr Sarkozy also complained of incompetence by magistrates who failed to assign a probation officer to the suspect, who had 15 convictions on his record and had recently been released from prison.

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