Chirac no-show for corruption trial
'Memory lapses' mean ex-president will be tried in his absence
FORMER French President Jacques Chirac won't have to attend his long-awaited corruption trial, a judge ruled yesterday, after Chirac's lawyers said the 78-year-old is suffering from severe memory lapses.
Judge Dominique Pauthe said he took into account a written appeal and four-page medical report sent last Friday by Chirac's defence team, and decided that the trial would be allowed to go ahead without the ex-president in court.
"In light of the items received in support of this letter, the personal appearance will not be ordered," Pauthe said after deliberating for less than an hour. "Jacques Chirac will thus be judged in his absence."
France's first trial involving a former head of state since World War Two involves the alleged creation of more than two dozen fake City Hall jobs used to fund Chirac's conservative party while he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.
Chirac, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, enjoyed immunity from prosecution during his subsequent 12 years as head of state.
The trial was suspended in March shortly after it began.
Judge Pauthe yesterday read from the defence letter, which said Chirac wanted to be heard because his testimony would be "useful for our democracy" and show that "all French people are equal under the law."
Chirac's legal team issued a statement on Saturday arguing that he no longer had the full capacity to participate in court proceedings, and asking that he be allowed to skip them.
The letter, Pauthe said, came accompanied by four pages of medical records, including a Chirac brain scan in April and a medical report drawn up in July. "It's my belief that he isn't in any condition to remember events that date back 20 years," Chirac defence lawyer Jean Veil told the court.
Jerome Karsenti, a lawyer for the anti-corruption group Anticor, urged an independent medical exam to ensure Chirac's alleged medical trouble was not an attempt at "running away".