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Papon conviction for review

PARIS, Feb 26 (AFP) – Maurice Papon, the 93 year-old Nazi collaborator, is to have his conviction for complicity in crimes against humanity reviewed by France’s high court of appeal, the Cour de Cassation, a judicial committee decided Thursday.

The decision followed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that France illegally deprived Papon of the right to an appeal in 1999.

Papon was sentenced to 10 years in jail by a court in Bordeaux in 1998 for his role in organising the deportation of French Jews in World War II. He was released in September 2002 for medical reasons.

The Judicial Review Committee, made up of senior judges, authorised the Cour de Cassation to re-examine the legality of Papon’s conviction. It can either confirm the Bordeaux court’s decision or order a re-trial. The committee rejected demands by Papon’s lawyers for an automatic re-trial.

No date was set for the review.

In October 1999 Papon absconded to Switzerland rather than spend a night in police custody on eve of his appeal at the Cour de Cassation, as was then required by the French justice system. As a result the case was immediately quashed.

The European Court of Human Rights has since ruled that the requirement that appellants hand themselves over to police before their hearing is a denial of natural justice, and French law has been changed in accordance.Lawyers for both sides claimed the committee’s decision as a partial victory.

“For the defense it is a success. It means that the case remains active and is not definitively closed, as the civil plaintiffs are demanding,” said Papon’s attorney Francis Vuillemin.

However Arnaud Lyon-Caen, representing victims’ families, said he was “satisfied because Mr Papon has not been granted a new trial as he was demanding.”

Papon, a senior official under the wartime Vichy government, has always denied responsibility for the deportation of some 1,500 Jews to Nazi Germany, where most of them died in extermination camps.

In a rare interview earlier this month from his home east of Paris, he told Le Point magazine that “I have never been in a position to create a situation conducive to remorse, so I do not see why I should express any.

“To express regret … is to say I have done something regrettable. It is an admission of guilt,” he said.

Instead he spoke of the “pity which I feel for events of this scale and savagery. I have condemned and continue to condemn a genocide in which France and the French played no part.”


                                                              Subject: France news