Page last updated at 19:32 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Bruni sues over nude bag picture

Bag being sold by Pardon
The bags have been on sale on the French Indian ocean island of Reunion

Lawyers for Carla Bruni, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, have filed a lawsuit against a company for selling a bag featuring a nude image of her.

They are claiming $160,000 (104,000) in damages from the firm, Pardon, based in the Indian Ocean island of Reunion.

Her lawyers said neither Ms Bruni nor the photographer had given permission for use of the image, which was shot for a campaign against Aids in 1993.

The company says it has withdrawn the bags and will destroy them.

They have already been on sale in Reunion at a cost of three euros (2.60), and were due to go on sale in France this week.

The white canvas bag features a black-and-white image of former model Ms Bruni, taken from a well-known 1993 photo of her standing upright in the nude.

Legal team

"Neither Carla Bruni nor the photographer has given consent for the use of the photo," said lawyer Gesche Le Fur at the court hearing in Saint-Denis, capital of the French Indian Ocean island.

Carla Bruni
An original print of the photograph was sold for $91,000 (59,000) this year
Ms Bruni's legal team argue that the first lady did not want the image's original goal of raising Aids awareness to be "hijacked" and used for commercial purposes.

An original print of the picture - taken by Swiss-born fashion photographer Michel Comte - fetched $91,000 (59,000) at a New York auction in April.

The bags show the naked Ms Bruni with a speech bubble that reads: "My boyfriend should have bought me Pardon."

Pardon boss Peter Mertes told the court that the 10,000 bags had been pulled from the shelves, and that the company planned to burn them.

Mr Mertes' lawyer argued that the sum sought by Ms Bruni was excessive.

The court is expected to give its decision on Thursday.

Protective president

Correspondents say President Sarkozy has used the civil courts more than any other French president in a bid to protect his family.

He went to court in October demanding a ban on sales of a voodoo doll representing him.

An appeals court said the doll was an "offence against the personal dignity" of Mr Sarkozy, but it would be disproportionate to ban it.

In January, the Sarkozys also sued Irish budget airline Ryanair over an advert featuring Ms Bruni musing that, thanks to cheap flights, her Italian relatives would be able to attend their wedding.

A French court ordered Ryanair to pay symbolic damages of one euro to Sarkozy and 60,000 euros to his wife.

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