The long-awaited corruption trial of former French president Jacques Chirac began in Paris on Monday. Those hoping to see Chirac face the music in the dock will have been disappointed. His mental condition will likely prevent him ever setting foot in court. By REBECCA DAVIS.
Corruption allegations against the 78-year-old former leader date back 15 years to the period when he was still mayor of Paris. Chirac is accused of using state funds back then to pay the salaries of seven staffers within his own political party, the Rally for the Republic, and no less than 21 of his friends, who were required to do absolutely nothing in return. The total financial misuse amounted to around €2 million, though anti-corruption campaigners say this is only the tip of the iceberg.
As soon as the case opened on Monday, however, the judge was handed medical records testifying to the fact that Chirac is unable to participate in the proceedings. As a result, he has been granted a dispensation from attending his trial for the foreseeable future, with his lawyers taking care of the necessary representation.
It is alleged that Chirac now suffers from a neurological condition called anosognosia, a term derived from the Greek “noses”, disease, and “gnosis”, knowledge. In other words, people suffering from the condition are unaware that anything is wrong with them. Chirac is thought to have developed it following a minor stroke. In its most extreme forms, sufferers may be unaware that they are, for instance, blind or paralysed. In this case, it prevents Chirac from remembering much about the past, which is why he’s considered unfit to stand trial.
If convicted, Chirac could be sentenced to a 10-year jail term, although in practice this would be commuted to a suspended sentence and a fine. DM
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