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French Court Rejects Subpoena of Chirac - 2001-09-05


A court has thrown out a subpoena that could have forced France's President, Jacques Chirac, to testify. The subpoena was part of an investigation into corruption while Mr. Chirac was mayor of Paris in the 1980s. The court decision gives the president political breathing room in his run for re-election.

An appeals court dismissed the subpoena of President Chirac on technical grounds. The court also removed the magistrate who had sought the president's testimony in the corruption case, which involved kickbacks on municipal housing contracts.

The court ruled the investigation can continue under a new magistrate-but the investigation may not get far in the nine months before the presidential elections.

Supporters of President Chirac had claimed the investigation was politically motivated. Mr. Chirac is expected to run for re-election against Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and the race could be close. A new opinion poll shows Mr. Chirac winning by two percentage points.

The president's approval rating has gone up recently, but there are two ongoing investigations of his term as mayor that could still hurt him. One is probing phony jobs given to members of Mr. Chirac's political party. The other is looking into $300,000 his family spent on private air travel.

And the president may still have to appear as a witness. One of France's highest courts is expected to rule shortly on whether the president is immune from giving testimony.

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