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Chirac absent as corruption trial proceeds

The trial of former French president Jacques Chirac [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] opened in his absence on Monday after Judge Dominique Pauthe of the 11th Criminal Court of Paris agreed to continue the proceedings without him. Chirac and his legal team filed documents with the court on Friday claiming Chirac is too ill to face his corruption trial [JURIST report], just three days before the trial was scheduled to continue after being delayed in March [JURIST report]. Chirac's lawyers on Friday submitted to the judge a letter with four pages of attached medical records, including a brain scan, suggesting the former president may have a condition linked to Alzheimer's disease [MedLine backgrounder]. The lawyers' report did diagnose Chirac with anosognosia, a mental disorder where one does not acknowledge one's illness due to brain damage often caused by a stroke. Chirac is being tried for allegedly misusing funds during his time as Paris mayor in 1990.

The French Court of Cassation [official website, in French], the country's highest appeals court, ruled in May that the corruption trial against Chirac could continue, rejecting a constitutional challenge [JURIST report] brought by one of his co-defendants. 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 French 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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