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France ex-president Chirac convicted of corruption

A French court on Thursday convicted former president Jacques Chirac [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on corruption charges, handing him a two-year suspended sentence. The charges stem from his time as mayor of the city of Paris and accused him of using public funds to support his political ambitions. In September, the prosecution asked the court to drop all charges against Chirac [JURIST report] and his nine co-defendants. Two of the nine were acquitted, but the other seven were also found guilty [BBC report]. Chirac, who was absent from much of his trial due to failing health, was not present [Le Monde report, in French] for Thursday's verdict. The first former French president to face prosecution, Chirac could have faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. It is unclear whether he plans to appeal.

While the verdict brings an end to this particular trial, Chirac still faces other legal woes. In September 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 from African leaders to be used as political donations. All of the alleged donations came from leaders of former French colonies. An investigation has also been 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 against current President Nicolas Sarkozy [official website, in French], but was recently acquitted [JURIST report].

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