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France judge orders ex-president Chirac to stand trial for corruption

[JURIST] Judge Xaviere Simeoni on Friday ordered former French president Jacques Chirac [official profile; BBC profile] to stand trial on charges of embezzlement and misuse of public funds. While serving as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, Chirac allegedly financed the Rally for the Republic (RPR), now renamed as the Union for a Popular Movement [party website, in French], by illegally establishing fake city positions for party members to collect salaries totaling several million dollars. After reviewing the investigation materials, Simeoni found 21 contracts [AFP report] awarded by Chirac to be suspicious, with evidence of wrongdoing. The charges were filed in 2007 [JURIST report] after Chirac's presidency ended and he no longer had judicial immunity. Nine others, including Chirac’s former chief of staff Michel Roussin, and Jean de Gaulle, the grandson of former president Charles de Gualle, were also ordered to stand trial [Le Monde report, in French] for their involvement in the corruption scheme. Following this order, Chirac will be the first former French president to stand trial since the formation of the current Republic in 1958.

Simeoni, who is set to leave office in late October, failed to grant Paris prosecutors' requests [JURIST report] last month that the charges be dropped. In 2007, Chirac's lawyer Jean Veil indicated that judges would likely question Chirac [JURIST report], but emphasized that the Chirac would not answer questions concerning scandals that allegedly occurred during Chirac's tenure as president of France because the French Constitution grants judicial immunity [text, in French] to the president. In July 2007, French investigating magistrates questioned Chirac as a material witness [JURIST report] in their probe of the corruption allegations.

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