The former French President Jacques Chirac is being sued for manslaughter by the families of French naval contractors killed by a bomb in Pakistan eight years ago.
The civil suit, which includes a second charge of endangering life, also targets former the Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.
The case alleges corruption linked to a 1990s deal to supply submarines to Pakistan. It has also embroiled the current French president. Lawyers for the families accuse Chirac and de Villepin of ignoring risks of reprisals against French personnel, by stopping commission payments to Pakistani officials.
An inquiry in France is looking into claims that kickbacks from the deal helped finance an election campaign in which now-President Nicolas Sarkozy was involved. He was spokesman for the former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur’s unsuccessful tilt at the presidency in 1995.
Eleven French engineers working on the submarines were among 15 people killed by the bomb in Karachi. A former French defence minister has said that some money was channelled to highly-placed individuals in France.
President Sarkozy has dismissed claims of his involvement as a “fairytale”.