Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Magistrate calls for Chirac trial

Jacques Chirac, file pic
Chirac is said to be "calm and determined" to prove his innocence

Former French President Jacques Chirac has been ordered to stand trial on corruption charges.

A magistrate ordered the trial over alleged false job contracts dating from Mr Chirac's time as Paris mayor.

The 76-year-old served as the capital's mayor from 1977 until he was elected president in 1995.

Mr Chirac has always denied wrongdoing and the Paris public prosecutor, Jean-Claude Marin, has previously said there was no case to make against him.

This is the first time a former head of state in France will have been ordered to stand trial for corruption, although correspondents say Mr Marin is likely to appeal against the magistrate's trial order.

'Calm and determined'

It is alleged millions of euros were used to provide bogus jobs to political associates and their relatives.

Investigating judge Xaviere Simeoni ordered Mr Chirac and nine former aides to face charges relating to 21 allegedly fake contracts.

The former president's office released a statement saying he was "calm and determined" to prove his innocence.

Dominique Paille, a spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling UMP, said he regretted the decision to send Mr Chirac to court, adding that having a former head of state stand trial did not give a very positive image of France.

"Jacques Chirac is a personality whom the French love very much," said Mr Paille. "It's a shame that, at the end of his personal career, he be put on trial."

Mr Chirac was France's president from 1995 until 2007.

Prosecutors had said previously that the statute of limitations had expired for alleged crimes committed before 1992, and that for those alleged to have occurred after that time, there was insufficient evidence to pursue a prosecution.

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