Lawsuits by French President, Girlfriend Against Budget Airline Go to Court

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Lawsuits by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and girlfriend Carla Bruni over budget airline Ryanair's use of their photo in an advertisement went to court Thursday.

Sarkozy and Bruni filed separate lawsuits that were heard together in a court session in Paris. A verdict is expected Tuesday.

Sarkozy is seeking one symbolic euro in damages for Ryanair's use of the image for commercial purposes without permission. Bruni is demanding $740,000, which the airline dismissed as "totally unjustified."

The couple's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said that was the average fee for publishing a photo of Bruni, a model and singer.

For Sarkozy, "it is a question of principle," presidential spokesman David Martinon said. "As for Carla Bruni, it is her job. It is her image, therefore, it is normal."

Sarkozy, 53, and Bruni, 40, reportedly met in November, soon after the president's divorce from his second wife.

The ad, published Monday in the French daily Le Parisien, shows the smiling couple with a comic book-style bubble that has Bruni saying: "With Ryanair, all my family can come to my wedding."

Ryanair said in a statement that it sent a written apology to the president with a promise not to publish the ad again and an offer to donate $7,400 to his favorite charity.

The company said it made a similar offer to Bruni, but refused to agree "to any totally unjustified payment ... to Ms. Bruni, who has engaged in an open, widely publicized and internationally reported relationship with President Sarkozy."

The company justified its ad as "an honest attempt ... to reflect humorously and positively on this very public and publicized relationship." It said it would not give in to "threats" and called her claims of damage "ludicrous."