September 5, 2011 - 13:43 AMT
Jacques Chirac trial opens in Paris

Former French President Jacques Chirac is due to go on trial charged with illegal party funding during his time as mayor of Paris. However, there are doubts whether the trial can go ahead as planned after a medical report found that Mr Chirac, 78, is suffering memory lapses, BBC reported.

Mr Chirac, who denies the charges, has asked the Paris court for his lawyers to be allowed to represent him. He is the first French former leader to stand trial since World War II.

Mr Chirac, who was mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995, is accused on two counts of paying members of his Rally for the Republic (RPR) party for municipal jobs that did not exist. If found guilty he faces up to 10 years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros (£131,000).

The first count accuses Mr Chirac of embezzlement and breach of trust relating to 21 so-called "ghost jobs". The second resulted from a separate investigation in the Paris suburb of Nanterre and involves an illegal conflict of interest relating to seven ghost jobs.

Despite persistent rumors of wrongdoing, Mr Chirac was immune from prosecution while he was president from 1995 to 2007. After years of legal wrangling, he and nine other defendants finally went on trial in March. But on the second day of the trial a lawyer representing Mr Chirac's former chief of staff at city hall, Remy Chardon, challenged the two cases being brought together.

Friends of the former president say that in recent months he has been subject to embarrassing lapses of memory.