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Thursday, April 2, 1998 Published at 10:07 GMT 11:07 UK

World: Europe

Papon found guilty

Scenes from the courtroom where Papon was sentenced

A French court has sentenced Maurice Papon to 10 years jail for crimes against humanity.

BBC correspondent Hugh Schofield reports on the case that made France face its past
Mr Papon, who is 87, was accused of ordering the deportation of 1,600 Jews, from occupied France to Nazi Germany. Many went on to die in Auschwitz.

However he was found not guilty of complicity in their murder.

Papon, whose health is frail, showed little reaction in the dock as the verdict was announced.

[ image: The court in Bordeaux where justice was meted out to Papon]
The court in Bordeaux where justice was meted out to Papon
He arrived in the courtroom shortly before 0700 (GMT) on Thursday accompanied by two doctors, who carried emergency medical equipment.

Jean-Marc Varaut, Papon's lawyer, says they will fight on ('0 ''37).
His lawyers have said that he will appeal against the sentence and will remain free until that legal process is completed which could take as long as two years.

'Historic verdict'

[ image: The descendants of the thousands of Jews sent to the death camps say France must never forget]
The descendants of the thousands of Jews sent to the death camps say France must never forget
Lawyers for relatives of the victims welcomed the verdict as historic.

"The people of France have expressed themselves. An important page in our national history has been turned," said Alain Jacobovich, an attorney for one of the civil parties in the case.

They believe it will force France to confont the past and face the extent of its collaboration with the Nazis.

BBC Correspondent gives the background to one of France's longest ever trials ('1 ''55).
It took 16 years for the case to come to court, six months for it to be heard and more than 18 hours for the jury to reach their verdict.

'What should I have done?'

Mr Papon's defence team has consistently argued that he acted only on orders and did what he could to save those condemned to the Nazi death camps.

[ image: Jewish rights groups have welcomed the verdict]
Jewish rights groups have welcomed the verdict
He is the most senior official of the Vichy regime, which collaborated with the Nazis, to stand trial for crimes against humanity.

Mr Papon earlier told the court in Bordeaux he had always acted on behalf of France. "What should one have done?" he cried out at one point.

"This is what is called a political trial," he said.

He attacked the civil party lawyers, prosecutors and the media and said that the trial had been a contributory factor in the recent death of his wife.

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