French court rules Chirac corruption trial can resume

image captionJacques Chirac enjoyed immunity from prosecution as president, but it no longer applies

France's highest court has ruled that the stalled corruption trial of former President Jacques Chirac can resume.

Mr Chirac, 78, is accused of embezzling public funds in the 1990s, when he was serving as mayor of Paris.

The trial was adjourned in March after a co-defendant argued that some of the charges were unconstitutional.

However, the Court of Cassation ruled against the challenge on Friday, saying the matter did not need to be referred to the Constitutional Council.

Jacques Chirac, who was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, is the first former head of state to stand trial in France since World War II.

'Ghost jobs'

He is accused on two counts of paying members of his Rally for the Republic (RPR) party for municipal jobs that did not exist.

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

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

Mr Chirac denies all the charges.

For years there were persistent rumours of wrong-doing, but Mr Chirac enjoyed immunity from prosecution while he was president from 1995 to 2007.

After 11 years of legal wrangling, he and nine other defendants finally went on trail in March.

On the second day, a lawyer representing Mr Chirac's former chief of staff at city hall, Remy Chardon, challenged the two cases being brought together.

He argued that the statute of limitations had expired in the first case.

The judge decided to refer the question to the Court of Cassation. It ruled on Friday that the constitutional challenge was not valid.

A Paris court will now convene on 20 June to decide when the trial will resume.

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