Sebastian Kurz
Kurz became the world's youngest democratically elected head of government in 2017. AFP

Austria's former chancellor Sebastian Kurz insisted he was innocent as he went on trial on Wednesday for allegedly giving false testimony to an inquiry probing wide-ranging corruption scandals that have rocked the country.

Kurz is the highest-profile figure implicated in a series of scandals, and the case marks the first time in more than 30 years that a former chancellor has stood trial.

Once hailed as a "wunderkind" of Europe's conservatives, Kurz stepped down as chancellor two years ago following a string of allegations against him, including allegedly spending public money for favourable media coverage.

It marked a spectacular fall for the charismatic hardliner, who in 2017, at the age of 31, had become the world's youngest democratically elected head of government.

Kurz went on trial for having allegedly given false testimony in 2020 to a parliamentary committee probing numerous graft allegations.

"I hope for a fair process, and that in the end the accusations will be proven wrong," Kurz, 37, told reporters outside the courtroom before entering.

Dressed in a light shirt and dark suit, he condemned the "politicisation" of his case, adding that he was "confident" he would be acquitted.

If convicted, Kurz could face up to three years in jail.

The former chancellor -- who is on trial together with two others -- is accused of having downplayed his influence in appointing the head of a state-owned company.

Prosecutor Gregor Adamovic, in his opening statement in a courtroom packed with media, argued that "nothing was decided without Kurz". He accused him of "lying to the general public" and "wanting to hide the truth".

Chat messages leaked to the local media from the investigation files ahead of the trial suggested that Kurz discussed the appointment with the official, Thomas Schmid, who in one message says "I'm so happy. I love my chancellor."

Adamovic raised some of those leaked messages in his opening statement.

Prosecutors have said they plan to call about 20 witnesses, including Schmid, as well as Kurz's former finance minister and other high-profile officials.

In his opening statement, Kurz's lawyer Otto Dietrich asked for his client to be acquitted, arguing the accusations against him failed to stand up.

Prosecutors have so far failed to land convictions linked to the series of scandals that have rocked the Alpine country of nine million people since 2019.

In a separate case, prosecutors are investigating Kurz on suspicion of having embezzled public money to fund polls which were skewed to boost his image and to pay for favourable coverage to help his political rise.

Though Kurz -- who denies all accusations -- has stepped back, the conservative People's Party (OeVP) continues to govern, but their approval ratings have plummeted.

This has played into the hands of the far-right Freedom Party (FPOe), which polls suggest now has around 30 percent support ahead of elections next year.

With a new leadership, the party has managed to overcome the so-called "Ibizagate" scandal that engulfed it in 2019 and brought down Kurz's first government.

His then vice-chancellor and far-right leader Heinz-Christian Strache stepped down after the leaking of a video, filmed secretly on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza. It showed him offering public contracts to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch's niece in exchange for campaign help.

He is now involved in numerous private international enterprises. His social media posts regularly show his jet-setting lifestyle and meetings with conservative politicians.

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