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Thursday, April 2, 1998 Published at 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK



Despatches
image: [ BBC Correspondent: Hugh Schofield ]Hugh Schofield
Bordeaux

The former French government official, Maurice Papon, has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to 10-years in prison. After 18-hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty of complicity in deportations but not the murders of Jewish victims during the Second World War. BBC correspondent, Hugh Schofield reports from Bordeaux:

The jury had to consider a complex series of charges all coming under the heading of crimes against humanity.

In the end they convicted him of some, the arrests and deportations of certain named Jewish victims, but acquitted him of the worst charge, complicity in their murder.

That meant an intermediary sentence, 10 years as against the 20 demanded by the State Prosecutor and the life in prison demanded by some of the civil plaintiffs.

The defence can argue that the concept of crimes against humanity does not permit of half degrees of guilt nor of half sentences like this and some of the prosecution agreed.

One lawyer said it was a politically correct verdict, intended to establish Papon's guilt but influenced by recognition that he was part of a much wider administration.

But in general, the people who first pressed these charges against Maurice Papon 17 years ago, the Jewish families, are satisfied.

They're saying the complicity of a large section of French society in consigning Jews to the holocaust, has now been judicially recognised and a chapter is closed.





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