Human rights court slams France formarathon rape case hearing

20th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

STRASBOURG, Oct 19 (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights ruled against France Tuesday in a case where a defendant was found guilty after a hearing that lasted 17 hours with only brief breaks.

STRASBOURG, Oct 19 (AFP) - The European Court of Human Rights ruled against France Tuesday in a case where a defendant was found guilty after a hearing that lasted 17 hours with only brief breaks.

Abdemmazack Makhfi was given an eight year sentence in December 1998 by a court in western France after being found guilty of rape and theft.

On the second day of his trial the court sat with three breaks from 9:15 am to 0:30 am the following morning, at which point Makhfi's defence lawyer asked in vain for the hearing to be suspended.

It resumed 30 minutes later at 1:00 am and the defence made its closing submission around 5:00 am, by which time the court had been in session for a total of 15 and three quarter hours.

By the time the judges and jurors retired to consider their verdict the day had lasted for 17 and a quarter hours. The verdict was given two hours later at 8:15 am.

"It is essential that not only the accused but also their defenders be able to follow the arguments, answer questions and plead their case without being in a state of excessive fatigue," the Strasbourg-based court ruled.

"Similarly it is crucial that judges and jurors enjoy their full powers of concentration and attention to follow the arguments and give an informed verdict."

The court found that the rights of the defence and the principle of equality between prosecution and defence had not been respected. It ordered France to pay Makhfi EUR 4,000 (USD 5,000).

© AFP

Subject: French News

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