A French court found former French president Jacques Chirac guilty in a historic verdict yesterday of embezzling public funds to illegally finance the conservative party he long led, and handed him a suspended prison sentence.
Chirac, a savvy world diplomat and icon of France’s political establishment for decades, is the first former French head of state to face prosecution since the World War II era. The 79-year-old former leader did not take part in the trial as doctors determined that he suffers severe memory lapses.
The court said yesterday 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.
He was given a two-year suspended prison sentence, which goes on Chirac’s criminal record, but means he does not have to go behind bars. The court said it took into account his age, health and status as a former head of state when determining the sentence.
Unusually, the prosecutor had requested earlier that the case be dropped, saying not enough evidence proved intentional corruption.
The court disagreed, saying that “his guilt results from long-standing and reiterated practices” of illegal party financing.
“For all those who could have expected a rejection of the case against him, or at least no penalty, the ruling can appear disappointing,” Chirac lawyer Georges Kiejman said. “What I hope is that this ruling doesn’t change in any way the deep affection the French feel legitimately for Jacques Chirac.”
“We have to take a step back and read this ruling, we have to speak of course with the main person involved [Chirac], and we will know tonight if he accepts this decision or, on the contrary, he wants — on principle — to appeal,” Kiejman said.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications