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Friday, October 22, 1999 Published at 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK

World: Europe

Papon behind bars

Maurice Papon collapsed after his arrest in Switzerland

French war criminal Maurice Papon is spending his first night behind bars in a prison near Paris - after being after being expelled from Switzerland.

The BBC's Claire Doole: "Papon's attempts to spend his last days in exile rather face jail in France have failed"
Papon was greeted by fellow inmates at Fresnes prison with boos and catcalls.

Papon was flown in from Switzerland after a brief escape from French justice and started his 10-year prison sentence for crimes against humanity in the prison's hospital wing.

[ image: Last stop: Fresnes prison]
Last stop: Fresnes prison
Swiss Justice Minister Ruth Metzler said Switzerland had expelled 89-year old Papon because the government did not want to shelter someone who had a prison sentence.

"Switzerland cannot and will not be a refuge for people charged with crimes against humanity," she said.

Papon's 10-day flight from justice came to an end on Thursday night when he was arrested in a hotel in the Swiss ski resort of Gstaad, 90km (60 miles) south of the capital Bern.

Police moved in just hours after France issued an international arrest warrant for the elderly fugitive.

France's highest court on Thursday rejected an appeal against his conviction in 1998 for his role in sending 1,650 Jews to Nazi death camps.

A matter of 'honour'

[ image:  ]
Papon, a former high-ranking police official in France's pro-Nazi Vichy regime, had checked into the hotel under a false name.

Swiss police said Papon was carrying cash and three passports - only two of them in his own name - when he was taken into custody.

He was taken ill shortly after his arrest, and was held in the prison ward of Bern's Inselspital hospital before being whisked out of the country by helicopter.

In a statement on Wednesday, Papon said he had chosen exile to uphold his honour.

The BBC's Justin Webb: "Papon thought he could escape justice"
Papon's flight from justice was made possible by a controversial decision by a Bordeaux court at the beginning of his trial in 1997, when it accepted medical testimony that he was in poor health and freed him for the duration of his trial and appeals process.

Under French law, Papon had to report to prison before the start of his appeals hearing. The appeal is automatically rejected if the appellant does not report to prison before the hearing.

Arrest welcomed

Papon is the highest-ranking official of the pro-Nazi Vichy government to be convicted of crimes against humanity during World War II.

[ image: Papon: Convicted of ordering the deportation of Jews]
Papon: Convicted of ordering the deportation of Jews
Vichy's anti-Semitic policies saw 75,000 Jews deported to death camps.

The trial opened old wounds about French collaboration with the Nazis, and his flight raised questions about the nation's determination to confront its role in the Holocaust.

In Paris, lawmakers at the National Assembly, the French parliament, broke into applause at the news that Papon had been arrested.

French President Jacques Chirac said Papon's arrest marked "the return to a respect of the law".

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