Chirac - Reuters - Nivember 24, 2011
Former French President Jacques Chirac at the the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris November 24, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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The frail 78 year old former President of France Jacques Chirac was on Thursday given a two-year suspended sentence after being convicted in the long running corruption trial against him - meaning he will not be serving his sentence behind bars.

Chirac, who has denied all the charges against him, and failed to show up in court for the proceedings throughout the past year, pleading poor health and memory lapses-- is accused of conflict of interest, breach of trust and embezzlement of party funds during his time as Paris mayor between 1977 to 1995.

Although Chirac's career was long dogged by accusations of corruption, he was immune from prosecution while he served two terms as president from 1995 to 2007 - and even now, politicians from across the spectrum have distanced themselves from the trial of a man whose stature and popularity have only grown since he left office.

Chirac started his public life when Gaullist Prime Minister Georges Pompidou made him a junior minister in 1967. He then became prime minister in 1974 under Valery Giscard d'Estaing. The accusations against him date back to late 1976, soon after Chirac had quit the post of prime minister and started his own party, the RPR (Rally for the Republic), which later joined with others to form the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

For 18 years between 1977-1995 (he took a break from office between 1986-88 when he returned as prime minister under Socialist President Francois Mitterrand) Chirac served as mayor of Paris, at which time, according to suspicions, he and his entourage – nine other individuals also face charges in the affair -- were using funds from the municipality to pay into the RPR.