Chirac corruption trial halted

A Paris court has suspended the
corruption trial of France’s former President, Jacques Chirac, in response to a
legal challenge.

A lawyer for one of nine
co-defendants had argued that it was unconstitutional to merge two cases
arising from Mr Chirac’s tenure as mayor of Paris.

The judge, Dominique Pauthe, said
the court would reconvene on 20 June.

Mr Chirac denies paying members of
his RPR party between 1977 and 1995 for municipal jobs that did not exist.

He is the first French ex-head of
state to face a criminal trial since wartime leader Field Marshal Philippe
Petain was convicted of treason.

The two cases centre on the latter
years of Mr Chirac’s time as Paris mayor. In the first, brought by Paris
investigators, he is charged with embezzlement and breach of trust over the
employment of 21 so-called “ghost” jobs.

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

A lawyer representing co-defendant
Remy Chardon complained that the two cases had been brought together because
the statute of limitations had run out on the first Paris case.

The judge ruled that his complaint
would have to be considered by France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation.

That court will then have to decide
whether to refer the case to France’s Constitutional Council.