Europe

French Court Opens Trial of Ex-President Chirac

In this May 12, 2006 file photo, French President Jacques Chirac is seen during a bi-lateral meeting with Mexico's President Vicente Fox at an EU Latin America summit in Vienna. The former president, only five years out of power and a bugaboo for George W. Bush during his rush to war in Iraq, becomes France's first former head of state to go on trial since its Nazi-era leader was exiled. That is, if the whole case isn't derailed by a last-minute protest by another defendant in the same trial. Trial opens Monday. (AP)

In this May 12, 2006 file photo, French President Jacques Chirac is seen during a bi-lateral meeting with Mexico's President Vicente Fox at an EU Latin America summit in Vienna. The former president, only five years out of power and a bugaboo for George W. Bush during his rush to war in Iraq, becomes France's first former head of state to go on trial since its Nazi-era leader was exiled. That is, if the whole case isn't derailed by a last-minute protest by another defendant in the same trial. Trial opens Monday. (AP)

PARIS -- A Paris court opened a long-awaited corruption trial Monday with former President Jacques Chirac as the star defendant, but quickly suspended the opening session over a technical legal issue that may go to France's highest court for a decision.

Presiding Judge Dominique Pauthe was responding to calls by the Paris state prosecutor and defense attorneys who have argued that the fusion of two separate investigations involving Chirac may not meet a crucial constitutional test.

Pauthe suspended the hearing after some 2-1/2 hours and said he would rule by Tuesday afternoon whether the lawyers' call for the Court of Cassation, France's highest court, to intervene was warranted.

Chirac, 78, is the first French head of state to go on trial since the country's Nazi-era leader was exiled. He was not present Monday.