French ex-president Chirac not to attend trial: lawyers

3rd September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Former French president Jacques Chirac will not attend his corruption trial opening in Paris on Monday on medical grounds, his lawyers said Saturday.

At Chirac's request, the lawyers said, they submitted a letter from their client to the presiding judge on Friday, together with a copy of his medical file.

"In the letter, president Chirac indicated to the court his wish to see the trial proceed to its end and his willingness to assume his responsibilities, even though he is not entirely capable of taking part in the hearings. He has therefore asked his lawyers to represent him and speak for him in these hearings," the lawyers said in a communique.

There had been speculation about the 78-year-old's state of health, who was said to have been tired when he arrived on holiday in Saint Tropez in the south of France.

The charges relate to his time as Paris mayor in the 1990s.

He stands accused of embezzling public funds to pay people working for his party ahead of his successful 1995 electon bid.

Chirac enjoyed immunity from prosecution as president from 1995 to 2007, but the case, which has already seen current Foreign Minister Alain Juppe convicted, has finally caught up with the former head of state.

Chirac, best known internationally for his opposition to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, has been linked to a series of corruption scandals but has never been convicted.

He is the first French former head of state to face criminal charges since the leader of the collaborationist wartime regime, marshal Philippe Petain, was convicted of treason after World War II.

If found guilty, he faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros ($213,000).

© 2011 AFP

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