PARIS — A Paris court is to rule Tuesday on whether a historic corruption trial targeting ex-President Jacques Chirac can go forward.
The trial centers on Chirac's time as Paris mayor between 1977 and 1995, before he became head of state. Investigators say he and his allies misused city funds, allegations he has repeatedly denied.
The trial opened Monday and focused on procedural matters. Chirac himself was not present, and is not expected to appear Tuesday, either. He was back in his office Tuesday, where he did not speak to gathered reporters.
A lawyer for one of his nine co-defendants argued Monday that a key complaint in the case was made too long ago to merit a trial today. Other defense attorneys joined in, questioning whether it's constitutionally acceptable that two cases were combined into one for the trial.
Presiding Judge Dominique Pauthe will decide Tuesday whether to dismiss their arguments and allow the trial to go forward, or submit the constitution question to France's highest court.
Submitting it to the Court of Cassation could lead to lengthy delays to a trial that has already taken years to get to court.
Chirac is the first former French leader to go on trial since the World War II era, when Marshal Philippe Petain, the leader of France's Nazi collaborationist regime, was convicted of treason and shipped into exile.
And with France's presidential election next year, the trial is shaping up as a glimpse of the unseemly underworld of kickbacks, corruption and embezzlement that has long roiled the French political system.
The trial focuses on an alleged 28 jobs paid for by Chirac's Paris City Hall from 1992 to 1995, but for work that instead benefited his RPR political party and its allies. It has been brought by two investigating magistrates, in Paris and suburban Nanterre, whose two cases have been fused into one.
Jean-Yves Le Borgne, lawyer for former Chirac chief-of-staff Remy Chardon, argued that the statute of limitations had run out on the Paris case and that the one in Nanterre was joined to it just to get around that fact.
The Court of Cassation, if summoned, would have the option of sending the motion to the Constitutional Council, which judges the constitutionality of French laws.