The Associated Press examines the case against Mr. Chirac.
The court said Thursday it had found Chirac guilty in two related cases involving fake jobs created at the RPR party, which he led during his 1977-1995 tenure as Paris mayor. He was convicted of embezzling public funds, abuse of trust, and illegal conflict of interest.
Chirac repeatedly denied wrongdoing. It took years to get him to trial because he enjoyed immunity from prosecution during his 1995-2007 presidential tenure, during which he led France into the shared euro currency and became the global champion of opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.The Guardian adds that the conviction has a larger meaning that should be felt throughout the French political establishment.
Even before the verdict, the former president's lawyer had warned what was at stake. "Your judgment will be the last image we are given of Jacques Chirac," Georges Kiejman had told the court, pleading for his ailing client to be cleared.
Judge Dominique Pauthe was unmoved, however, and found Chirac guilty as charged of embezzling public funds, abusing public trust and an illegal conflict of interests.
The surprise verdict made Chirac the first former French leader to be convicted since Marshal Philippe Pétain, the head of the Vichy regime, was found guilty in 1945 of collaborating with the Nazis.
Chirac, 79, who led France between 1995 and 2007, was not in court to hear the ruling. He had been given a special dispensation to be spared appearing at the trial in September and the reading of the verdict on Thursday after a medical report found he had "irreversible" neurological problems that had caused "an important loss of memory".
The judgment came 20 years after the crime and after more than a decade of legal wrangling. During his time as president between 1995 and 2007, Chirac enjoyed immunity from prosecution and had refused to testify before the investigating magistrate, saying it was "incompatible" with his function as head of state.