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Chirac trial delayed for months

The trial of former French president Jacques Chirac on corruption charges has been postponed until June.

Judge Dominique Pauthe said the case would be suspended after a protest by a defence lawyer that a key complaint in the case was made too long ago to merit a trial now, and that it was not constitutional to combine two cases for a single trial.

The decision was an unexpected twist in a case that took years to come to court - the trial centres on Mr Chirac's time as mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.

The judge has asked France's highest court, the Court of Cassation, to consider the protest.

The Court of Cassation has the option of sending the motion to the Constitutional Council, which judges the constitutionality of French laws.

"Jacques Chirac is once again going to escape the justice system," said Jerome Karsenti, lawyer for an anti-corruption association that was largely the leading civil party to the case.

Mr Chirac, who was not present in court, made no comment on the development.

The trial focuses on an alleged 28 jobs paid for by Mr 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 Mr Chirac's former 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 Paris case is seen as more severe because it involves more alleged fake jobs.

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