Jacques Chirac’s corruption trial will go forward without him after Paris judges granted the former French president’s request to not attend the hearings due to an impaired memory.
Chirac’s “personal appearance won’t be required,” Judge Dominique Pauthe said today after the three-judge panel consulted on arguments and a medical report stating he suffered from memory lapses linked to an undetermined neurological illness.
The 78-year-old shows “the symptoms of different neurological illnesses,” his lawyer Jean Veil said. He “is no longer in a state to remember details of events 20 years ago.”
Chirac is accused of misusing Paris city funds to reward party loyalists with no-show job contracts during his time as mayor of Paris. He held the post from 1977 until his election as president in 1995, except for a two-year period when he was prime minister.
Chirac’s lawyers gave the judges a report by the head of the neurology unit at a Paris hospital stating Chirac suffers from a neurological condition and is unable to defend himself. Paris prosecutor Michel Maes supported the former leader’s request.
The investigation was delayed by rules shielding sitting heads of state from investigations for anything short of high treason. While Paris and Nanterre prosecutors opposed a trial, investigating judges said one was needed.
The City of Paris dropped its claim after reaching a settlement under which the former president and the Union for a Popular Movement, successor to Chirac’s party, paid 2.2 million euros ($3.1 million) to the city. Neither admitted guilt and Chirac denies violating any laws, claiming all contracts were for real city jobs, Veil said before the trial began.
Chirac’s lawyers and Maes contested the participation of several individuals and the anti-corruption group Anticor as plaintiffs. Paris is “the only victim,” Maes said.
They are “taking a place that doesn’t belong to them,” said Veil.
Their right to participate will be decided with the rest of the charges in the final judgment, Pauthe said.
If convicted, Chirac faces as long as 10 years in prison for a charge of embezzlement and as much as a 375,000-euro fine on one of abuse of trust. He would also be ineligible for future political posts. Prior, similar cases indicate he is unlikely to receive any jail time.