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Chirac corruption trial to open in Paris

After several setbacks, former French president Jacques Chirac is due to stand trial Monday on charges including embezzlement and breach of trust.

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The embezzlement trial of Former French president Jacques Chirac is due to open Monday – but most likely in his absence.

Chirac has asked to be excused from court, arguing he not well enough to attend.

The 78-year-old is the first French former leader to stand trial since the Second World War, and is charged with using public funds to pay those working for his party when he was Paris mayor.

The French daily L'Express reported there were doubts as to whether the trial could proceed, after a medical report found that Chirac was suffering from memory loss.

It's not just age. Jacques Chirac is no longer the man he was a few years ago. He faces major memory lapses. According to the Journal du Dimanche, he is suffering from anosognosia, whose symptoms are often found in patients with Alzheimer's.

Judge Dominique Pauthe will on Monday decide whether to drop or postpone the case, or seek further medical opinion.

Chirac, who was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, is being charged with two counts of paying members of his Rally for the Republic party for municipal “ghost” jobs.

If found guilty, Chirac faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros ($214,000).

Agence France-Presse reports that Paris city hall last year dropped its civil charges against Chirac in return for a payment of more than 2.2 million euros.

As French president from 1995 to 2007, Chirac was given immunity from prosecution – and although he has been linked to a series of corruption scandals, he's never been convicted.

French Greens presidential candidate for France's 2012 elections, Eva Joly, told France Info radio Monday that did not believe French presidents should continue to be given immunity from prosecution.