Chirac will not attend trial on health grounds
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France's former President Jacques Chirac will not attend his corruption trial which opens in Paris on Monday, for medical reasons, his lawyers announced on Saturday.
At Chirac's request, the lawyers said, they submitted a letter from their client to the presiding judge on Friday, along with a copy of his medical file.
"In the letter, president Chirac indicated to the court his wish to see the trial proceed to its end and his willingness to assume his responsibilities, even though he is not entirely capable of taking part in the hearings. He has therefore asked his lawyers to represent him and speak for him in these hearings," the lawyers said in a communiqué.
Chirac's son-in-law Frédéric Salat-Baroux said on Saturday that Chirac's health had been getting worse for several months and that he "no longer has the memory" to attend the court hearings.
However Salat-Baroux insisted that Chirac did not want the proceedings to be abandoned. "If the trial stopped, the French would think that there are two legal systems - one for the powerful and one for the weak," Salat-Baroux said, adding that "as a statesman, a former head of state, he [Chirac] believes he must meet higher standards than others."
The charges relate to Chirac's time as Mayor of Paris in the 1990s.
He is accused of embezzling public funds to pay people who were working for his political party ahead of his successful 1995 election bid.
The longrunning case has already impacted on the careers of many in French politics, including current Foreign Minister Alain Juppé, who in 2004 was given a suspended prison sentence for his role in the matter.
Chirac benefited from immunity from prosecution while he was President of France from 1995 until 2007
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