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Former Paris mayor in court ... for just 15 minutes

AFP/Joel Saget

The latest stage in the fake-voters trial of former Paris mayor, Jean Tibéri, opened on Monday but only lasted 15 minutes. Tibéri, who is an MP for French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP, is accused of electoral malpractice in the capital’s fifth arrondissement, where he is still mayor.

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The case is one of several concerning UMP members and Sarkozy allies that are contributing to the president's declining popularity.

Spate of high-profile trials in France

Also in the dock are Tibéri’s wife, Xavière, whom prosecutors describe as “omnipresent” in the municipality, and his deputy, Anne-Marie Affret, a long-time Tibéri loyalist who finally spilled the beans during a previous trial.

They are accused of bribing people who lived outside the arrondissement to put themselves on the electoral register there by offering them child-care at municipal nurseries, council homes or jobs with the Paris city council.

The affair dates back 15 years and the three are appealing against an earlier guilty verdict that saw Tibéri, who is now 76-years-old, banned from standing for public office for three years and given a 10-year suspended jail sentence and a 10,000-euro fine.

French politics no stranger to scandals

Xavière Tibéri received a 5,000-euro fine and a nine-month suspended sentence, while Affret was fined 1,500 euros and given a nine-month suspended sentence and a two-year public office ban.

Jean-Charles Bardon, who was the arrondissement’s mayor from 1995 to 2001, and six council employees did not appeal against their sentences.

Monday’s trial was suspended after just a quarter of an hour because the defence tabled several legal points, similar to those which led to the suspension in March of the trial of former president Jacques Chirac, who followed Tibéri as Paris mayor.

The judge will decide Tuesday whether to send the points to the country’s top appeals court, which would mean suspending the Tibéri case.

Tibéri was mayor of the fifth arrondissement from 1983 to 1995 and holds the post today after being reelected in 2001.

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