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France court orders Chirac corruption trial to resume

The French Court of Cassation [official website, in French], the country's highest appeals court, ruled that the corruption trial against former French president Jacques Chirac [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] can continue, rejecting a constitutional challenge brought by one of his co-defendants. Chirac is being tried for allegedly misusing funds during his time as Paris mayor in 1990. Chirac's co-defendant, Remy Chardon, his former chief of staff, challenged a decision by the prosecution to dismiss the statute of limitations in the case against Chardon violates the French Constitution. The court however found the claims were not valid [BBC report] and did not need to go to the Constitutional Council [official website], France's highest constitutional authority. The challenge has postponed the trial since March in only its second day.

The trial began despite the fact that the main plaintiff dropped out of the suit. Last September, the Paris city council accepted a settlement deal [JURIST report] in which the former president agreed to pay USD $741,000 in compensation for the money paid out for false jobs. In exchange, the city agreed to drop out of the corruption suit. Chirac stated that the settlement was not an admission of guilt. A French judge placed Chirac under preliminary investigation [JURIST report] in December 2009. Chirac's trial on corruption charges marks the first time [JURIST comment] a former president will have to answer to charges against him in a court of law. The trial is a combination of two separate corruption-related cases, in which 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 between 1977 and 1995 for party members to collect salaries totaling several million dollars.

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