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Bastarache inquiry lawyers want to destroy Bellemare's reputation: attorney

Lawyers at the Bastarache commission have no other objective than to destroy the reputation of Marc Bellemare, a lawyer for the former justice minister says.

Rénald Beaudry unleashed the fierce attack on Tuesday as hearings resumed in the inquiry into the former Liberal minister's allegations of influence peddling in the nomination of judges.

"During cross-examination of my client, the lawyers representing the Quebec government, Premier Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberal Party showed that they have no interest in the nomination process of judges, their only interest being to harm the reputation of my client and meddle in his private life to achieve it."

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Last week during cross examination, lawyers for Mr. Charest brought up the subject of the former justice minister's daughter, whose investigation for possible links to Hells Angels members almost forced his resignation two days after he was sworn into cabinet, in 2003.

Mr. Beaudry accused the other lawyers of showing "contempt" for the rules laid down by Michel Bastarache, the head of the commission, who called on all participants to restrain from making public comments about testimony.

Last Wednesday, Quebec Liberal Party lawyer André Dugas reacted strongly outside the commission after his cross-examination of Mr. Bellemare. He told reporters that there was never any exchange of money between a senior party fundraiser and a party official as Mr. Bellemare had alleged, suggesting that part of his testimony before the commission wasn't true.

The comments prompted Mr. Bastarache to remind the lawyers of their responsibility to follow his directives.

"While it is not my intention to undermine anyone's right to free speech … I would ask that the lawyers of all the parties get together and find a solution to this problem," Mr. Bastarache said on Tuesday.

But Mr. Beaudry said that the damage is done, and that events of the past few weeks confirmed that the "role of the commission was to discredit my client in eyes of public opinion." He said that the commission has become nothing more than a "lame excuse ... to violently attack my client" and settle "political scores."

Mr. Beaudry reiterated that his client will pursue his bid before Quebec Superior Court to have the inquiry annulled. He then called on Mr. Bastarache to suspend the hearings, saying he had not received all of the summaries of the interviews conducted with the other witnesses prior to the hearings, known as "will say statements."

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"There is an obvious risk that the evidence could be tampered with on the part of the government," Mr. Beaudry said, after noting that out of the 40 witnesses commission lawyers heard behind closed doors, he had received only six summaries.

Quebec government lawyer Suzanne Côté didn't take kindly to the accusation.

"I'm shocked by the comment," Ms. Côté said. "There has never been any risk of tampering with the evidence."

Mr. Beaudry was expected to complete the cross-examination of Mr. Bellemare on Tuesday before proceeding with other witnesses. However, he told the commission that Mr. Bellemare had nothing more to say for the moment.

His request to have the hearings suspended was abruptly rejected by Mr. Bastarache.

The commission will hear testimony this week of senior public servants involved in the nomination of judges to determine whether there could have been outside interference in the process as claimed by Mr. Bellemare.

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About the Author
Quebec City political correspondent

Rhéal Séguin is a journalist and political scientist. Born and educated in southern Ontario, he completed his undergraduate degree in political science at York University and a master's degree in political science at the Université du Québec à Montréal.Rhéal has practised journalism since 1978, first with Radio-Canada in radio and television and then with CBC Radio. More

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