Chirac trial set for September


French former president Jacques Chirac is to be tried in September for corruption, relating to the period in the 1990s when he was Mayor of Paris, a judge ruled on Monday.


The trial would be the first ever of a former president of France, and it is to take place in Paris from 5 to 23 September.

Chirac is accused of embezzling public funds while mayor.

He avoided trial back in March, when lawyers for one of his co-defendants won a postponement, arguing that certain charges were unconstitutional.

But the country's highest appeals court has now rejected that argument, and ruled that the trial can go ahead.

Chirac enjoyed immunity from prosecution as president from 1995 until 2007.

His close party associates were not so protected, and Alain Juppé's career was dealt a heavy blow, when in 2004, he was given a suspended prison sentence after conviction in the same case.

After a period in the political wilderness, Juppé is now France's Foreign Minister.

Chirac is accused of using public funds to pay people working for his party ahead of his successful 1995 election bid.

He denies any knowledge of illegal payments and his lawyers accuse magistrates of harbouring a political agenda.

There has been much speculation about 78-year-old Chirac's health and whether he is well enough to stand trial.

If found guilty, Chirac faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros.

State prosecutors, who are under the hierarchical authority of the government, have called for the case to be dismissed.

Chirac is best-known internationally for his firm opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq and since he left office in 2007, he has become a popular figure in France.

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