Former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin lashed out at his rival Nicolas Sarkozy as he went on trial on Monday on charges of plotting to smear the president.
"I am here because of the will of one man, I am here because of the dogged determination of one man, Nicolas Sarkozy," he told reporters before entering the courtroom.
"I will come out of this a free man and exonerated," he said, adding that "I know that truth will prevail."
Dressed in a navy blue suit, the 55-year-old Villepin looked relaxed as he took his place before the judges of the criminal court along with four other defendants in the politically-charged case.
Dubbed the trial of the decade, the judicial drama features a Who's Who cast of big names in politics, industry and intelligence circles, beginning with Sarkozy, who is a civil plaintiff in the case.
Villepin faces charges of conspiring to slander Sarkozy in 2004 when the pair were waging a fierce battle to win their right-wing party's nomination to succeed president Jacques Chirac.