Jacques Chirac case: Paris prosecutor seeks acquittal

Former French President Jacques Chirac on holiday in St Tropez, 14 August The former president is said to be suffering from lapses of memory

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The Paris prosecutor has asked for illegal party funding charges against former French President Jacques Chirac and nine others to be dropped.

Michel Maes told the trial, which is taking place in Mr Chirac's absence, that it had not been proven that he had known about "individual situations".

Mr Chirac denies the charges, which go back to his tenure as mayor of Paris.

The anti-corruption group Anticor, which is a civil party in the case, condemned the prosecutor's request.

Mr Chirac, 78, is the first former French leader to stand trial since World War II, and faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

He has not been attending the trial on grounds of ill health. A medical report said he had memory lapses.

'Two justices'

Mr Chirac, who served as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, is accused on two counts of paying members of his RPR party - the predecessor of today's ruling UMP - for municipal jobs that did not exist.

Start Quote

This is a caricature, almost ridiculous [and] shows the illness of the French justice system, we can see clearly its subjugation to political power”

End Quote Jerome Karsenti Anticor lawyer

According to the charges, he was the "inventor, author and beneficiary" of a conspiracy to use public funds to "support his political influence" and serve his own "interests and ambitions, or those of his party".

The first count accuses Mr Chirac of embezzlement and breach of trust relating to 21 so-called "ghost jobs".

The second resulted from a separate investigation in the Paris suburb of Nanterre and involves an illegal conflict of interest relating to seven ghost jobs.

"I seek acquittal for all the accused on all charges," Mr Maes told the court on Tuesday.

Anticor's lawyer, Jerome Karsenti, reacted to the prosecutor's request by saying: "This is a caricature, almost ridiculous [and] shows the illness of the French justice system, we can see clearly its subjugation to political power."

An MP from the opposition French Socialist Party pointed out that Alain Juppe, a former prime minister and current foreign minister, had been convicted on related charges in 2004, receiving a suspended prison sentence.

"I sometimes almost feel we have two justices," he told France Inter radio on Wednesday.

He added that he hoped the judges in the trial would take a different view from that of the prosecutor.

The trial is set to end on Friday, with a judgement not expected for weeks or months, AFP news agency reports.

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