Lawyers: Ex-French leader not fit to attend trial

AP News
Posted: Sep 03, 2011 1:53 PM
Lawyers: Ex-French leader not fit to attend trial

Former French President Jacques Chirac isn't well enough to attend his trial on corruption charges, but the proceedings should go ahead without him, his lawyers said Saturday.

Chirac's legal team told the court in a letter Friday that the 78-year-old "no longer has the full capacity to participate in court proceedings," according to a statement released a day later. As result, they have asked that Chirac be allowed to skip court appearances.

A judge will likely rule on the request Monday, when the trial is set to open.

The prosecutor's office declined to comment on Saturday.

Chirac's wife denied rumors earlier this year that he had Alzheimer's disease, although she acknowledged he was experiencing problems that were either linked to a 2005 stroke or age.

The trial, which has been repeatedly delayed, involves two cases of fake jobs allegedly created to fund Chirac's conservative party while he was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.

If convicted, he would face up to 10 years in prison and euro150,000 ($215,000) in fines. He is the first former head of state to stand trial in France since World War II.

Chirac, who was president from 1995 to 2007, has denied wrongdoing. His lawyers say he wants the trial to go forward, even if he cannot attend. In France, it's not unusual for defendants to ask to skip their trials for medical reasons.

The lawyers included the results of a neurological exam in their request. Jean Veil, one of Chirac's lawyers, declined Saturday to detail the report.