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France prosecutor seeks acquittal in Chirac corruption case

A Paris prosecutor on Tuesday, asked that the corruption charges against former French president Jacques Chirac [BBC news profile; JURIST news archive] be dropped. Additionally, the prosecutor has requested acquittal [BBC report] of the nine other individuals charged with Chirac. The charges against Chirac stem from his time as mayor of the city of Paris and accuse him of using public funds to support his political ambitions. The anti-corruption group Anticor [advocacy website, in French], whose lawyers exposed some of the ways in which the funds were allegedly misused, have highly criticized the prosecutor's request. Earlier this month, Chirac's legal team filed documents with the 11th Criminal Court of Paris claiming Chirac is too ill to face his corruption trial, only days before the trial was slated to continue after being delayed in March [JURIST reports]. However, Judge Dominique Pauthe of the court agreed to continue the proceedings without him [JURIST report]. The trial is set to end on Friday with the judge still having the ability to deny the request and enter a guilty verdict.

While Tuesday's request may result in an end to this trial, it would not be the end of Chirac's legal woes. Last week, the prosecutor's office began an inquiry into allegations [JURIST report] against Chirac and his prime minister Dominique de Villepin over the receipt of millions of dollars from African leaders. The accusations against the two former French officials were made by a lawyer who worked as an aide to Chirac and claims to have participated in the passage of over $20 million in cash [Reuters report] from African leaders to be used as political donations. All of the alleged donations came from leaders of former French colonies. An investigation will also be launched by the Paris Bar into the actions taken by the accuser as his involvement with the passage of these funds is unethical within the legal profession. Villepin, like Chirac, had also been the subject of another trial, which involved accusations that he participated in a smear campaign [AP report] against current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French], but was recently acquitted.

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