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France: Jacques Chirac corruption trial to open

     Jacques Chirac - 31 January 2011 Under French law the former president is not obliged to be in court Former French President Jacques Chirac is due to go on trial on charges he misused public funds while he was mayor of Paris, before he was president. Mr Chirac is accused of paying cronies between 1977 and 1995 for town hall jobs that did not exist.
    The 78-year-old has always denied the charges.
    Mr Chirac is the first French former head of state to face criminal charges since Marshal Petain was convicted of treason after World War II.
    Nine co-defendants Traditionally the presidential office has been above the cut and thrust of political life.
    Under French law the former president is not obliged to be in court but he will appear on Tuesday despite rumours of his ill health.
    The trial brings together two separate cases, both involving allegations that people were employed on the Paris mayor's payroll while working instead for Mr Chirac's RPR party.
    One case, brought by a Paris magistrate, involves charges of embezzlement and breach of trust over the employment of 21 people.
    The other case for which the ex-president is charged with conflict of interest, involves seven jobs, and has been brought by an investigating judge in Nanterre.
    Nine other people will be on trial, including Mr Chirac's former chief of staff Remy Chardon, 61, whose lawyer is aiming to have the case adjourned on the grounds that bringing the two cases together is unconstitutional.
    Complaint withdrawn Mr Chirac is to go on trial even though the main plaintiff has dropped out.
    The city of Paris withdrew its complaint last year after reaching a settlement with the former president and the ruling UMP party amounting to 2.2m euros (£1.9m; $3m).
    The prosecutor in charge of the original investigation believes there is insufficient evidence to bring a conviction.
    It is only because two pressure groups have picked up the case and pursued it that it will go ahead at all.
    Mr Chirac's wife has rejected claims that the ex-president is suffering from Alzheimer's.
    In theory he could face up to 10 years in prison, but most legal experts say even if he were convicted it is unlikely he will serve any time.

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France: Jacques Chirac corruption trial to open

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