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France's Hollande considers legal action over alleged affair

Source: Reuters - Fri, 10 Jan 2014 08:19 GMT
Author: Reuters
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PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande has complained of breach of privacy and is considering legal action after French magazine Closer alleged he was having an affair with an actress, a source in his office said on Friday.

"Francois Hollande greatly deplores the invasion of his privacy, to which he has a right as any other citizen does. He is studying what action, including legal action, to take following this publication," the source said.

The weekly tabloid, criticised in 2012 for publishing topless pictures of Kate Middleton, Britain's Duchess of Cambridge, published seven pages of photos of comings and goings outside a Paris apartment block to support its allegation.

A woman who the publication said is actress Julie Gayet, 41, is seen arriving at the apartment block at night.

The pictures then show the arrival of a man resembling Hollande's bodyguard. A second man - which Closer said was Hollande - then arrives on the back of a scooter. He is unidentifiable because he is wearing a black helmet.

Subsequent photos taken in the morning show the first man arriving with what Closer said was a bag of croissants, then the second man in a helmet emerging and jumping on the back of a scooter.

The woman resembling Gayet, who has acted in French films including the 2013 comedy "Quai d'Orsay" when she plays a vampish diplomatic adviser in the foreign ministry, then comes out and heads off down the street.

There was no immediate comment from Gayet's lawyers. She filed a complaint for breach of privacy last March after rumours of an affair became public. The source in Hollande's office did not comment on the veracity of the story.

Hollande, who came to power in 2012 and who polls show is the most unpopular president in France's modern history largely because of his failure to turn around the weak economy, is in a long-time relationship with ex-journalist Valerie Trierweiler, who has assumed the functions of France's first lady.

A lawyer for Trierweiler declined to comment.

Hollande has four children from a previous relationship with Segolene Royal, a senior member of his Socialist Party and a 2007 presidential candidate. Royal announced their separation just after she lost the 2007 election to Nicolas Sarkozy.

French attitudes to infidelities of their leaders has historically been more indulgent than those of people in Britain or the United States and it is not clear how the matter will play out on Hollande's standing with voters.

French politicians have in the past been known to have affairs with little impact on public opinion, most notably former Socialist President Francois Mitterrand, who had a daughter with his mistress. (Reporting By Elizabeth Pineau and John Irish; writing by Mark John; editing by John Stonestreet and Elizabeth Piper)

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