France's Jacques Chirac 'not in fit state' for court

Jacques Chirac
Image caption Jacques Chirac's trial is due to start on Monday, having been adjourned in March

Ex-French President Jacques Chirac says he is not in a fit state to attend his corruption trial, reports say.

He has asked the Paris court for his lawyers be allowed to represent him, AFP news agency has reported.

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

The trial is due to start on Monday, having been adjourned in March after a co-defendant argued that some of the charges were unconstitutional.

In a letter to the Paris court on Friday, the former leader wrote that he wanted his trial to go ahead "even if he no longer has the full ability to participate in hearings", said a statement from Mr Chirac's lawyers.

"In the letter... he requested that his lawyers be able to represent him and carry his voice during these hearings," said the statement.

A copy of the former president's medical records was enclosed in the letter, it added.

French media described Mr Chirac as tired during a holiday in St Tropez last month, although he reportedly signed autographs and posed for pictures with tourists.

Immunity from prosecution

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.

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.

For years there were persistent rumours of wrongdoing, but Mr Chirac had 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 trial in March.

However, on the second day of the trial 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, which ruled that the constitutional challenge was not valid.

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