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Jean-Francois Probst, who was a high-ranking Paris City Hall official under Mr. Chirac in the 1980s and author of two books on him, said he thought the ex-president was “relatively calm” going into the proceedings.

“He’ll explain what he believes in his conscience is the truth,” he told the AP. “But it’s never fun to go to trial — he’s never been there in his life.”

Pierre-Antoine Souchard contributed to this report.