Trial against former French President Chirac opens

08:44, March 08, 2011      

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Former French President Jacques Chirac leaves his office in Paris, March 7, 2011, a few hours before the start of his corruption trial in Paris, which will be the first time a former head of state has been called on to appear before the courts in France. Chirac, president until 2007, is expected to attend the trial on Tuesday. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

The trial against French former President Jacques Chirac opened on Monday afternoon, accusing him of having created "fake jobs" for friends and allies in his Rally For the Republic (RPR) party in 1990s.

Chirac, 78, was expected to stand trial on Tuesday despite of concerns over his health condition, becoming the first ex-president of France under judicial investigation.

Involved in the "fake jobs" affairs, he was under charges of misappropriating public money to friends and allies in his RPR party when served as mayor of Paris in the 1990s. Public prosecutors filed the suit after Chirac lost his immunity as French president in 2007.

In January, reports said Chirac was in declining health, casting doubts on his appearance in the court. Later, his wife spoke out to deny reports that Chirac was suffering from Alzheimer's, and his lawyer Jean Veil also said Chirac has said to attend the trial.

The trial, starting from March 7 to April 8, will probe into two similar cases combined together.

According to a hearing conclusion in last October, the first case concerned 21 contract staff with Paris City Hall, placing Chirac under charges of embezzlement and breach of trust, and the second involved seven jobs in public sector of Nanterre, accusing Chirac of illegal conflict of interest.

Last year, the City of Paris, a major plaintiff in the case, officially withdrew its claim against Chirac on a settlement agreement paying 2.2 million euros (2.8 million U.S. dollars) to the city. Thus the Paris municipal government was absent in the trial.

If convicted, according to French law, Chirac will risk 10 years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros (210,297 dollars). However, local media widely anticipated that the ex-president will at worst suffer loss in fame and suspended sentences.

Former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, now France's foreign minister shouldering heavy responsibility in Sarkozy's cabinet, was convicted in 2004 for his involvement in the fake jobs affair during his time as Chirac's deputy mayor and RPR president. Juppe then received a 14-month suspended prison sentence and a year's ban from politics.

Source: Xinhua

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