Paris court rejects plea to clear Seznec's name

15th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 14, 2006 (AFP) - A French review court Thursday rejected a request to overturn a murder conviction against a late Brittany sawmill manager who served more than 20 years on Devil's Island and died in 1954.

PARIS, Dec 14, 2006 (AFP) - A French review court Thursday rejected a request to overturn a murder conviction against a late Brittany sawmill manager who served more than 20 years on Devil's Island and died in 1954.

The decision means the 83-year-old mystery surrounding the validity of the case against Guillaume Seznec remains undisturbed.

It notably deals a defeat to Denis Le Her-Seznec, who had dedicated his adult life to proving that his grandfather's trial in 1924 was rigged by corrupt police. He condemned the court's rejection as "absolutely shameful".

The presiding judge declared Thursday that there was "no new fact or element unknown to the jurisdiction the day of the trial of a nature that might have cast doubt on the guilt of Guillaume Seznec".

The case was one of France's criminal 'causes celebres' — especially in Brittany, where Seznec is seen by many as the victim of Paris injustice. Several books have been written about it and at least one street bears Seznec's name.

Seznec was found guilty of killing Pierre Quemeneur, a local notable with whom he travelled to Paris in 1923 with a plan to negotiate the sale of US military vehicles left behind after World War I.

Sentenced to hard labour for life, he was sent to the Devil's Island penal colony in French Guyana and in 1947 was granted clemency for good behaviour by Charles de Gaulle. He was killed seven years later in a hit-and-run accident.

Seznec's family alleged that the case against him was falsified by police inspector Pierre Bonny, who in World War II went on to work as a Gestapo accomplice and was shot after the Liberation.

New evidence emerged unexpectedly in 1997 when Colette Noll, a member of the French resistance who was deported to Ravensbruck concentration camp, read a book on the affair.

Noll was able to prove a link between Bonny and a car dealer called Boudjema Gherdi, who — according to Seznec — he and Quemeneur had been planning to see in Paris. Gherdi never testified at the 1924 trial and Seznec's family says he and Bonny were accomplices.

Noll knew both men because she was betrayed to the Gestapo by Gherdi and tortured by Bonny.

The revelation persuaded then justice minister Marilyse Lebranchu — a Breton — in 2001 to authorise a review by a committee of legal experts, who a year ago referred the case to the Court of Revision, the sole body capable of overturning a conviction.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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