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The BBC's James Coomarasamy
"Agreement has been reached between France and US"
 real 28k

Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
US anti-abortionist faces extradition
Anti-abortion activists protesting
James Kopp is prominent among anti-abortion activists
A French court has recommended the extradition to the United States of a notorious American anti-abortion activist wanted for murder.

James Kopp, 46, is charged with the 1998 killing of Barnett Slepian, a New York doctor who performed abortions.


The priority must be Kopp's return

US Attorney-General John Ashcroft
Mr Kopp, who denies the charges, has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list for the past two years.

The three-judge panel in the city of Rennes said it was recommending extradition only on the condition that "the death penalty will not be requested, pronounced or applied".

Like other European countries, France does not extradite suspects if there is a chance they will face capital punishment.

US Attorney-General John Ashcroft has already sought to allay fears in Paris by saying the US will not seek the death penalty in the case.

James Kopp has the right to appeal, but his lawyers said he had not yet decided. An appeal could delay extradition for months, possibly years.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has the final say on all extraditions.

Notorious

Mr Kopp showed no emotion as the decision was announced.

"Who killed Dr Slepian? That is the only question you should ask," he said as he entered the court.

He was arrested in France in March after two and a half years on the run.

Dr Barnett Slepian, murdered in 1998
Barnett Slepian: Killed in his kitchen by a sniper
Mr Slepian, a 52-year-old obstetrician, was killed by a sniper as he stood chatting with his wife and one of his four sons in the kitchen of their home in Amherst near Buffalo, New York state.

The doctor carried out legal abortions at a women's clinic in Buffalo and also had a private medical practice.

James Kopp has been arrested several times for his anti-abortion activities.

He is wanted in Canada and the US in connection with at least four other attacks on abortion doctors.

He used several aliases and was known in anti-abortion circles as "Atomic Dog".

Last October, a Federal Grand Jury indicted him on two counts.

He faces a state murder charge and the additional charge of violating US law by using deadly force against the doctor.

The state charge carries up to life in prison while the federal charge can bring the death penalty.

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